Characterization is a very important part of writing in my opinion. In fact, next to the plot itself, it is the bread and butter of the story. Unbelievable, flat, or static characters can kill a story even if the plot is stellar. So it’s something I find I have to watch out for when I write. How do I do this?
I keep tabs of my characters in Ywriter. Yes that writing program that I raved about before. I keep track of not only their appearance, but their personality. But before I even get to that stage, I figure out who each character is by giving them key personality traits such as being greedy, optimistic, antisocial, lustful, etc.
Then I take these attributes and play them against the overall plot of my story. For instance, I’m writing a story now (my upcoming novella actually) and the main character is a jaded introvert. So of course she reacts differently to going to an opulent feast being held in the castle than her best friend who is socially ambitious. And it lays out the groundwork for how she will develop as the story continues.
Which brings me to what I consider to be the most important part of characterization. Continuity. If a character is one way, then you can’t just change their personality in the blink of the eye. A coward isn’t going to magically jump in front of the biggest bad guy in the whole book for a sudden showdown. Even if he does have a magic baseball bat that is almost guaranteed to defeat anyone who crosses his path.
Yes, he may overcome his cowardice over time in the book, but not instantly. Which is where continuity comes into play. The key personality elements that you introduce your character to your audience with, needs to stay the same. I’m not saying you can’t change them or use them as obstacles or whatever in your story. But things need to be believable and stay that way throughout the whole book.
What are your thoughts on what makes for great characterization in a book? Also what are some of your pet peeves that you consider to be bad characterization?