Creating characters for a series – tips

Here are a few tips to follow when creating characters for a series. (Don’t miss yesterday’s post, which provides the foundation for this one.)

1. Keep an organized list of background information.

2. Create flaws and strengths of character that enhance the plot. (For instance: In my DEAD GIRL DANCING, Eli & Amber both like math, and in the climax math reveals a solution).

3. Add interesting details to your characters to make them more real. (Amber likes self-help books and refers to titles as she meets challenges).

4. Keep up with technology. Texting, iPhones, gaming, etc. are part of teen life.

5. Pay attention to teens and read many YA novels to study characters.

6. Listen to your characters as they evolve; be true to who they are, not who you want them to be.

7. Don’t kill pets (unless they’re already dead, like Amber’s dog). Many authors may disagree and that’s okay. This is my personal “pet” peeve (pun intended). Pets are characters, too, and readers love them. I avoid reading books if I know a pet is killed. That sort of death lingers with readers and will often be the main thing they’ll remember about your book—not my goal.

8. Humor is a wonderful trait! Use it well and have fun.

9. Avoid clichés – the perky cheerleader, mean rich girl, etc. I won’t deny that I’ve used these clichés but I go deeper now to show what makes all characters unique. Sometimes, though, for a very minor character, using a quick cliché gives a mental image without distracting from the plot. Still it’s a good idea to twist the cliché; make the cheerleader have bad teeth or the bully a science whiz.

10. Study real teens, but don’t write like they talk. Um’s and yeah’s get boring. For dialogue examples, read current YA books that librarians and teens like.

This is a huge topic and I’m writing an article, not a book, so I’ll bring this to a close. If you have questions, just reply here.

— Linda Joy Singleton, who wrote on a writing school application at age 14 that she wanted to write her own series someday. And it happened.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Creating characters for a series – tips

  1. Linda – terrific post. All great tips. If I tried to write dialog like my high school son speaks, I might want to strangle my own characters! LOL

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