Writing Advice — a Small Bit on Characterization

Hello, I’ve returned.

Lately, as I wrap up old projects and begin new ones, I’ve been thinking a lot about simple actions a character can take to characterize them.

(Characterize, as in describe a character, without actually straight up describing them.)

The characterization begins with the first word used when speaking about a character, whether that be on what they look like, what they’re doing, or how they act.

And readers pick up on this.

The smallest inclinations are usually better for characterizing someone, rather than directly saying or boldly insinuating something to the point where it becomes the equivalent of someone’s actions screaming about their inner turmoil.

Show, don’t tell, write right?

I’m sorry.

If you want to portray someone as childish, that can usually be done in dialogue.  Just alter some of the words the character says, and maybe the tone in which they say it, and voila! Your character has become childish.

Avoid describing them like children, filtering your speaker’s voice to reflect your own opinions, and going overboard.  Like perfume and small talk — less is more.

(Also, side note.  In my opinion, there’s rarely a good reason for your character(s) to engage in small talk.  Unless you’re using it for tension purposes.  Don’t do it.  Reading it is worse than speaking it.)

For another example, say you want to characterize a character as cunning or sly.  This can be done with attention to their facial expressions.  Or it could be done by comparing them to symbols that most people associate with cunning.

Say they’re like a fox, but don’t call them cunning directly.  That’s no fun.

I’m sure you can use these examples to fill in your own blanks for your own writing.  (I don’t want to give too many examples and drain all the creative energy from readers that need it.  I’ve noticed that giving too many examples can be counterproductive and make it harder to implement.)

Remember kids:

  • Focus on how the characters act, and what they’re doing.  Maybe even what they look like.
  • Your characterization should be shown, not told.
  • Say what you need to say, but not too directly.  Your readers will still get it.

If you would like me to talk about this more, or in further in depth, let me know!  I’m always happy to help out with writing troubles! 🙂

Thank you so much for reading!  I hope you have a nice day!

~Until next time!~

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