How do you reveal character?
They can introduce themselves. If the person is describing themselves you get a sense if they are modest, or big-headed; their sense of self and self-worth or lack of it; how they speak; and hopefully their world view. It gives the reader their voice.
Or if the narrator is telling the story, we can see what they think of someone else. The narrator’s view will be skewed based on how they feel about the person being described and their conscious or unconscious bias.
All of us have ticks, habits, or annoying repetitive things that we do that drive partners and kids mad. We can show these by repetition over the course of the book which might be boring or it could be funny depending on how it is done, or we can just reference it by saying things such as ‘he always picked his teeth after a meal’, or you can show the effect it has e.g. someone talking about how annoying they are because of the way they always pick their teeth after dinner.
Authors can describe the character as if they were a photograph and then engage the reader by showing how they move or what they wear reflects their character. Are they perfectly coiffed after hours or preening, or do they have the appearance of being slap-dash-dragged through a hedge backward after moments ago falling out of bed? A devil may care beauty of which they are unaware, or a gawky awkwardness that belies their physical attributes as if they don’t know they are stunning? It tells us as much about the character’s psychology as their outward appearance.
You can tell us all about them in a clever and concise way, sketching them in such a way to engage the reader and get them quickly into the plot and potentially the conflict. This can be a useful tool for outlining the appearance, psychology and what makes them tick, but unless this is expanded upon and the reader is shown what the character is really like and hear what they say, then it can end up not being engaging. So only use this method as set up and then get to the meat of the action.
Alternatively all the reader gets is how they act or present themselves, how they speak, and their social interactions i.e. how they behave. They don’t know if the character is big boned, fit, maturing like a fine wine, or as ugly as a troll. All they know is how they act and talk and from that they infer the rest and make it up – perhaps projecting themselves into the character’s position and becoming the hero of your story.
But if they are just observed without other clues, the reader will not know that what they are really like – it could all be a front and they may be behaving or playing up to the audience. For example they may be a miser who is generous (with other people’s money) or self-obsessed but self-deprecating. And it is hard to convey this with just they way they act. So there needs to be a range of tools in the writers toolbox and more than one may need to be used to be able to round out the characters so that the reader sees what they need to, to make sense of the plot.
It can be helpful also to layer the reveal of the character so that the reader becomes intrigued and wants to try to work out who they are and what they look like. Create a curiosity in the reader about the character, make them intriguing and realistic or larger than life but whatever you decide make them work in the context of what will be asking them to do in your plot.
You can reveal them in a number of ways by:
- It can be useful to describe characters by appearance first
- Then show them talking
- Reveal their mannerisms
- Follow this by subtleties of behaviour and attitude.
- The way they react to other people
- What other people think about them
- They way they act in particular situations
- Their job and the way they do it
Characters should be described in one or two traits that make them unique. They are prominent characteristics that physically show their personality, that should become meaningful in the plot later on and create a lasting impact.
Think how behaviour defines the physical characteristic you associate with the character. Emotions impact the story more than physical characteristics. So give key details that the readers need, focusing on traits that define a personality to remember. Your character might fail, succeed, hurt someone, be hurt by someone, and the way they react to all of these events shows what they are like.
Characters are described in one or two traits that make them unique. They are prominent characteristics that physically show their personality, that become meaningful in the plot later on and should create a lasting impact.
Think how behaviour defines the physical characteristic you associate with the character. Emotions impact the story more than physical characteristics will stop give key details that we need, focusing on traits that define a personality to remember. Your character must fail, succeed, hurt someone, be hurt by someone, and react to all of these events.
Readers like to know about a character, and even if they are an arsehole, they need to care about, them