Creating Unforgettable Characters, Part 1
Our first impression of a person may come from the way they look. We form an idea of who they are by their style of dress, hair, or the shoes on their feet. We size them up as a homeless person, businessman, common laborer, dumb, smart, fat, thin, wealthy, poor, and a multitude of other notions. These impressions may prove true or false once we look deeper into the habits and emotions of the person. The outward ‘skin deep’ impression doesn’t show us who they actually are.
Strong characters and plots keep readers flipping the pages. An interesting plot moves the story along. Making readers remember and relate to the characters is a special part of a good short story or novel.
For example, Frodo Baggins looks like an ordinary Hobbit, yet we learn that he has unique qualities that make him, and only him, the Hobbit who can accomplish a special task. We remember not only his story, but also who Frodo was. He’s an unforgettable character. Some other unforgettable characters that come to my mind are Darth Vader, Indiana Jones, Cinderella, and Charlie Brown. You get the idea. As you read my list, you saw in your mind what the character looked like and how they behaved. Their personality and mannerisms came to mind as well as their physical traits because you’ve read about them and seen them in action. They are like full-fledged people in our eyes.
- Make your own list of unforgettable characters from favorite books, TV shows, or movies.
- Keep the list so you can add words to describe what makes them special in a future assignment. As you develop your writing skills, characters will go beyond ‘skin deep.’ In future lessons, you’ll find the heart of your character, develop word pictures, and add details to make him or her unique. Today you’re looking at their surface.
- Page through a magazine and find a picture of a man and a picture of a woman. Write the ‘skin deep’ description for each person. Include things like hair, nose, lips, height, scars, and body type. Describe their clothes. Are they wearing formal dress clothes or a ratty shirt with holes? Are they wearing gym shoes, expensive loafers, high heels, or ballet slippers? Give them a name and birthday. Every person has both!
In a future lesson, you’ll start creating personalities for your characters. You’ll eventually turn them into people who have families and unique personality traits. You’ll add goals, motivations, and conflicts so they go beyond ‘skin deep.’ Like Pinocchio, they’ll become real people.