"If you're struggling with writing a character, write 20 things that the reader will never know about your character. These will naturally bleed into your writing and provide a richness even though you don't share the detail." ~ Barbara Poelle
This little tidbit of knowledge is actually really important. I know from my own experience that the more things you know about a character (their personality, their past), the more life-like they are.
Samuel from my post about Character Quirks, or Allister from the Warriors of Aralan series are both good examples of this. Samuel hates being called Sam. Allister has a special aversion to being called "boy," because that's often how his abusive father referred to him. Samuel has a bearded dragon for a pet, when other kids his age were getting kittens and puppies. Allister is a master snowball-packer, having lived in the far reaches of the northern quarter for his first seventeen years.
See what I'm getting at here? Details. Little details are what brings the character to life. Allister may not have much occasion to hear the word "boy" directed at him, but he hates it. Samuel's pet bearded dragon may not figure much in the story, but he has one, and it makes him different—the same with Allister's snowball prowess.
So, now it's your turn. Write down twenty things your readers may never know about one of your characters! I'll wait. They can be anything from talents to backstory info to their sense of fashion. Be creative! What makes them them?
It's difficult, isn't it? Now that I've put you through all that, I'll let you in on a little secret: twenty isn't a magic number. It isn't a cure-all for writer's woes. You could've written down ten things or thirty things, only ten might not give you enough behind-the-scenes info, and thirty—well—why put yourself through that? :P
The point is to have something to go by. I used to think that I could make details like this up as I go along, but it's better to have some in place first, even if I don't actually use them. For example, Allister dislikes being called "boy." Maybe boy doesn't come up, but someone calls him son (in a negative way) instead. That might also be a trigger for unpleasant memories.
And don't just let these twenty new details sit on the proverbial shelf and collect dust. Use them! Use variants of them! If this is a new character, you might find later that some of the things you wrote down really aren't "them" at all, but others are. That's okay. It got the wheels turning.
The moral of the story is: If a character is stubbornly refusing to be life-like, finding out a little more about them might help!
Welcome to Katelyn Buxton Books! I'm a Christian author and blogger, with a passion for writing stories that are not just enjoyable, but also lead people closer to Jesus. Feel free to look around, and enjoy your stay!