Character Details

by Robert A. L.

Question: I have a general idea of how my plot is going to work and I have the character bios created to help me remember all of their specific details. The problem I have is trying to find a way for me including them into my book. Does anyone have any tips?

Answer: Don't feel you have to include every detail about a character. Most writers feel that 90% of what they know about their characters never appears in the actual book.

Nonetheless, it can be important for you to work out all these details in your own notes because the process of doing so is like building a mental hologram of your characters. The more details, the more real the characters seem to you, and the easier it will be for you to write about them. When you know your characters really well, you will instinctively know how they will react in every situation, how they will talk, act, feel, etc.

What the reader gets for most characters is not the complete hologram, but only the aspect or side of the character that is perceived by the main character or the narrator. But that aspect will be richer if it has depth, which comes from the details that are not revealed in the book.

Of course, you will reveal more about the inner personality of your main character or other point-of-view characters, but don't feel you must reveal everything. Stick to the details that are most relevant to the story.

I should also point out that genre makes a big difference. Plot-driven or genre stories may not spend so much time detailing the characters' inner lives. On the other hand, character-based stories or literary fiction often make inner lives the primary focus, so many more details will be revealed.

But in either case, don't think of these details as a checklist to be ticked off. Your preliminary work is just a starting point. No matter how much you work out about a character before you start writing, you will continue to discover new things about him/her in the writing process. For most writers, that is half the fun.

That doesn't contradict what I said about the 90%, because much of what you write may be edited out later. Many "pantsers" write first drafts that are way too long. They must go through a process of paring down the story until what remains are the words that are essential, and everything extraneous is omitted.

Comments for Character Details

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Dec 05, 2014
Helpful... Maybe
by: Jacob

I hope this helps. What I have done is created a file name: Important Characters. It lists every character that ever appears in my book. Where they enter, description, age, any armor/weapons, relations to other characters, bad or good. Almost everything I can think of about every character is in that file. It helps me to remember whats been added and what needs to be and when. GL

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