Characterization is the process of conveying information about characters in narrative or dramatic works of art or everyday conversation. Characters may be presented by means of description, through their actions, speech, or thoughts. The better the audience knows the character, the better the character development. Thorough characterization makes characters well-rounded and complex. This allows for a sense of realism.
In contrast, an underdeveloped character is considered flat or stereotypical.
Keep Voice Consistent
The problem with using a character that you don’t know inside-out, is that it’s hard to stay in style throughout the story. Instead of writing in a constant voice, it will vary from day to day, chapter to chapter. Without an identifying tag , ‘said Bob’, readers can’t tell who is speaking. That’s when it stops being fun and starts being boring–for you and for the readers.
If you read the newsletter about forming a community of characters, you have probably already built most characters and know them well. If you haven’t, you might find it helpful.
Build a character’s voice by matching it to his personality and his purpose in a particular story. You will not have to birth a new character for every story you write. The more practice you have with each character, the better he will get. To avoid confusing the voices, I suggest working on scenes of one character at a time while developing his unique voice.
Have your main character keep a diary for a few days, or for a male character, calling it a journal would be more manly I suppose. You can use an idea from your proposed story or if you need a prompt, try these.
Exercise 1 – Day 1. Your character currently lives in a small town. During the writing we learn about his move to a big city to start a new job.
Exercise 2 – Your character receives (or sends) a series of anonymous love letters. We will learn how she reacts to each letter and what she does, if anything, to find the sender. If the character is male he might be the sender. We might learn why he’s sending them anonymously by reading his inner thoughts.
As the voice develops you should notice a consistent pattern coming through. If you’ve kept the character’s role in mind, the voice will match. Is it formal, romantic, upbeat, straightforward or funny?
When you move from the journal into the draft of the story, write without thinking too much about what you’re writing and just tell the story. Stay in the creative groove by thinking of the story as a long letter to your readers, and remember we usually don’t have problems writing letters to our friends. Your reader is your friend. Keeping this thought in the front of your mind helps us to go deep inside to find our real voices.
Part of what a writer aims to do through voice is create the impression of character and story world consistency. Though characters, like people, have their moods, they should still be recognizable as the same people throughout the story.
One of the main reasons teachers recommend journaling and free-writing in a writing program is because it takes time and a lot of writing to develop a voice, and impatient writers love to skip that part of the process. But writing before you’re ready just won’t do. Get to know who your characters are and their authentic voices will be heard.