Writer’s Tip Tuesday : Character Traits

Character traits, what are they? Are they part of the personality? Is it what they look like?

The truth is character traits are one of the most important things you will develop when you’re writing a story. A lot of first time authors will focus on what the character looks like. For example; long blond hair or rock hard abs, or cold blue eyes. While these are important in painting a picture of the character, it doesn’t really tell me anything real about them.

In order to breathe life into a character, we have to look deeper. Instead of saying Sara’s red hair fell on her shoulders.

Say something like the follow:

Sara’s copper hair drizzled down her back like strands of fire caught in the glow of the night.

The word use of the first one is simple, basic. It tells me she has red hair. The second one tells me the author sees her as beautiful.

Now take this simple sentence.

She crossed her arms in front of her.

Compare it to this.

Sara shifted, crossing her arms in front of her as a shield designed to protect her.

One tells me nothing but how she is standing, That’s good and all but the second one tells me she is defensive about what’s going on.

Every nuance of a character can be considered a trait. The way she walks down the sidewalk…does she saunter as if she doesn’t have a care in the world or does she walk in quick small steps? Does she roll her eyes or tap her nails against her teeth with she is waiting? The small movements and reactions created in characters are what breathes life into them. It’s what makes us love or hate them. They help develop the reaction readers will have. The whole idea of creating these traits is to make them relatable. We all can relate to being in a hurry, or irritated. It’s the wording that will express the feelings you want to portray.

If we use our words to emit the emotion instead of telling the reader what they feel, it will create a deeper connection to the characters we have created.

When I take the sentence ‘Sara’s copper hair drizzled down her back like strands of fire caught in the glow of the night,’ I am creating a powerful image that seduces the mind into seeing how in awe the hero is of her without saying he loved her beauty. This will help connect the two characters together on a deeper level in the reader’s mind.

Painting a picture is so much more than scenery, it is made up of the most poetic details that make people fall in love over and over again. To create deeper levels it is important to peel away the layers.

What does the character love? What does he or she hate? What irritates her? What are her motivations? All of these are necessary components and can be used as expressions, movement, glares and so on. If we find ourselves locked emotionally, so will your characters.

Often times, we only need to look inside to find the answers. The opposite holds true as well. People watching is a very useful tool when it comes to building character traits. Seeing how a person laughs, or how a person walks in a daze or with a glow in their eyes tells a lot. The simplest nuances can be way more powerful than saying, she was irritated, she was happy, she was sad.

These are the souls of what we are creating and our characters are only as deep as we make them.


Writers Tip: stretch your imagination in order to develop living breathing characters. We only know what you give us. If a character is flat it’s only because you made them that way.