Jennifer discusses character...
We all have our favorite characters that we read or write, our “book boyfriends” that we can’t stop dreaming about long after we’ve finished the book. I have several characters that I still think about and further develop, even though I’ve told their stories and they should get out of my head to make room for others.
When asked to describe them, we usually start with their physical traits—eye color, hair color, muscle tone, etc. But what about their “character”—their internal traits that make them who they are? Those are the things we need to “show, not tell” so our reader can experience the full personality. Sometimes, though, those traits are harder to describe.
I’m currently filling out a form for my agent, called a Character List. I have no idea how prevalent these are, but I’ve never had to do it. It seems quite simple on the surface—a list of names, whether the story is told in their POV or not, their career, their story function and a physical description.
As I fill it out, I realize I have way more characters in my story than I thought. It sounds funny to say, but I forgot about some of these people—they’re minor townspeople, who flesh out the story, but don’t move the plot along much. Still, every character, no matter how minor, needs to be listed. And after I’d put it aside and checked it off my to-do list, I realized I still forgot a few that I have to go back and add.
I wish there was a spot on the list for character traits, as I’d love to describe the “whys” that give my characters depth. I guess whoever reads the list will just have to find those out when reading the book!