Now, this has always been a tricky subject, because how can you truly make a character believable, 3 dimension even, on a thin piece of paper? Yes, it is no easy task. Now, I advocate, even though a lot of the time I forget to do this, writing down your character’s names and creating a little biography for them- important little details that make them real. What school they went to, what were their nicknames…anything that gives them life. But I find that something that brings them to life is in the dialogue. When your character, say he’s called Bob Smith, talks, give him a particular way of talking, like this: Bob turned to me and said, “Alright mate, How’s life?”. Bob talks in a very relaxed way, and sounds a little like he’s from London. Maybe George Jones talks like this: George pointed at me and said, “You, I do not care for what you said earlier.” George has a more sterner and proper way of speaking. Get the idea.
I think it’s true that a character’s dialogue will show you the way to go, which is sometimes annoying if the plot is going one way, and George and Bob are taking it in another direction. Solution, get Bob to shoot George or the other way around. If they both annoy you, have George shoot Bob, then have him turn the gun on himself. A problem solved. Anyway, It won’t be long before you’ve found the voice of your characters. Another thing to remember, is that people have their weird little habits. Smoking, biting their nails, telling bad jokes. Your characters should have habits and weird little things they do. If you find that your new character, Terry Jones, no relation to George, has a little habit of jumping out of bushes and flashing women, then report him to the police. Get him out of there. Remember, your character’s are human.
Now, something I must mention, DO NOT mention everything that your character does. We do not need to know the colour of his underwear or what cereal he likes to eat or how many miles he rides his bike for. I read a book once (I’ve read more than one book) and the writer described the main characters habits and hobbies in infinite detail. The book was at least 500 pages long and should have been half the size! I have the same problem with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo books, even though I’ve enjoyed them. There is a LOT of detail in those books that does not need to be there. In the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, the writer tells us exactly how Lisbeth Salander decorates and furnishes her new apartment- this goes on for a while. I actually found myself skipping pages. I think maybe the editors were afraid to edit the work down, in respect to the deceased author Stieg Larsson. The important thing to remember is: write about that which is relevant to the story.
Don’t forget to describe your characters too. I mean, tell us what they look like and what colour their hair is. How tall are they? Are they slim or overweight? It’s funny, but you do read books sometimes when the main character is hardly described at all. Gone are the days when a writer had to spend a whole chapter describing all the details, from the colour of their hair, to where they were brought up. You’re not writing a Jane Austen novel. Or are you? Are you Jane Austen? Anyway, just a little sketch of their appearance will suffice. In fact, my favourite novel, The Great Gatsby, does not include a complete description of the title character. We know how bright his shirts and suits are, and how wild his parties are, but not actually what he looks like. We only have a hazy image- a big, wonderful smile that tells you that everything will turn out all right in the end.
But, at the end of the day, or book, it’s up to you. There are no hard or fast rules about writing. You can write what you like and when you like. You can include everything or nothing( although that would be a very minimalist novel). There are no rules. (But there are loads.)
That’s enough for now. Hope this has been helpful. You can ask me to write on a specific topic if you like, if anyone is actually reading this.