The main characters of the Fairy Knight series were all my son and my wife. My son made this wild character called Ching Goo (friend in Korean) who was him as a fairy, a wise-cracking, funny and quite spontaneous boy who went to Sheepee Elementary School and who didn’t always think things through so well. His mom made a character named Oma Bell (Mother Princess) and she was the one who tempered his wild plans and doings, bending his spontaneous and creative ideas into useful action and accomplishing the work of heroes. And the fan-favorite has really been Hamster Rick, who was made by my son. He loves plushies and he loves animals, so his character took a special power to have an animal friend, an anthropomorphic animal that would be friends with them and help them on adventures. And he chose a hamster but not a typical one — he wanted one that had six-pack abs and was super strong. An amazing choice and not at all one that I would have made on my own!
These are the elements that function on numerous levels to offer me a greater grasp of a character’s basic identity, perspective, interactions with others, and relationship with self when an author is building characters.
Let’s take a brief test on enhancing characterisation using details. I’m not going to give you full-fledged examples of each occurrence. These are straightforward facts. They should preferably be demonstrated to you rather than stated to you in fully developed text. However, for the sake of this exercise, assume that this is what you learn from a specific piece of information, regardless of how it is conveyed.
Which of the following are details that help to define a character?
Jenny’s hair is brown.
Michael stooping down to pick up a lost coin.
Ian is a big fan of ice cream.
When Laura sees Greg, she pulls at her sweater.
Holly has freckles on her face.
Every Sunday, Debra skips church to attend the go-kart racing.
Beau’s walls are a soft yellow color.
Kyle keeps an urn he found at a thrift shop on his bookcase.
Amanda is learning to play the guitar.
In his local band, Rufus plays the first kazoo.
Perhaps the latter two examples are a little muddled since musical talent informs character regardless of instrument, but I believe you understand the point I’m trying to make with this extremely leading question.
Consider These Considerations When Creating Characters
At the end of the day, I don’t care what your character looks like–unless their physical appearance is crucial to the storyline or tale, it’s probably random.
Action–show, don’t tell–reveals details that strengthen characterisation.
Details that improve characterisation have emotional resonance–we get a feeling of something more going on beyond the surface when we watch Laura pull at her sweater.
This information is broadcasting into the future–we get the impression that what we learn here will be vital at some time later in the tale.
Specific details tend to strengthen characterisation.
Details and actions should have a dual purpose.
Make sure you choose facts and behaviors that serve double duty and flesh out character on a deeper emotional level for your reader when you’re developing characters, particularly at the beginning of your book–whether novel or picture book!–when you’re establishing characters. You can speak about their favorite fast food and music all day, but that’s only going to get you so far. They actually come to life when we see them in action and in interaction to other characters.