Style and Character

SunsetDo you have style and character? Do your characters? A lot of writers tend to depend a little too heavily on using stereotypes when creating their characters and this is not a wise choice. The problem isn’t that stereotypes are there to use, but more that it tends to show only too well that an author truly hasn’t invested a lot of time in defining all the intricate layers of who their character is and is not. Without that definition, a character becomes more like a cardboard cutout rather than a flesh and blood person and if you’re striving to have your readers “suspend their disbelief” a stereo-typed character isn’t going to do that.

I realize that doing character backgrounds on every individual is a lot of work. It requires time, good record-keeping and the investment of a lot of energy figuring out who your character is, where they are in their lives and what they are capable of doing or not doing. However, if you choose to not do these things, anyone who does any amount of reading isn’t going to want to stick with you for very long. They will see that you have not developed your characters with any sort of depth which translates into the fact that you are asking complete strangers to invest time and possibly money on what you’ve written, yet you have not done the same for your work.

If you don’t care about your characters why should anyone else? It’s like planting a garden with a bunch of different seeds but not taking the time to read the specific care guidelines for the plants you’ve chosen. If you get a few that grow, how are you going to know how to care for them if you haven’t taken the time to learn how to nurture them? Characters in your story are the same. You can’t nurture a characters’ growth if you don’t know where they came from or what makes them tick. They’ll never get to where they need to go and in return, neither will you.

Writing anything of any importance, either for yourself or for others is much like going to school. It is a process of learning through doing and in this case, the doing is the writing and the learning comes from how your thoughts become sentences on the page. It really is a ‘process’ that has a lot more to do with who you are, than who or what you are writing about.

And I know you’ve probably heard it ad naseum over the years from a variety of different sources, but in this case writing is at the top of the list – practice makes perfect. And that is something that can’t be stressed enough. If you take the time to read something you wrote, say 5 or even 10 years ago you will see how your writing ‘style’ has changed compared to today. That is something that doesn’t happen by itself, it happens because you are always learning and refining your style whenever you write. And in a few months or even a year from now, you will have evidence that your practice has made you a better writer and your readers will thank you for it.