In a perfect world, perfect people would skip about merrily. This isn’t a perfect world, however, and there are no perfect people. One pitfall to avoid in developing characters is the trap of making the ‘good guys’ always GOOD, and the bad guys always BAD.
The fact is, even good guys have bad habits, do the wrong thing at times, and make stupid decisions. And even a bad guy can have a soft spot, do things nice, etc. Human beings are way to complex to make it such a clear definition. In fact, in order to build a really great ‘bad guy’ giving his motives, and actions reason that would seem understandable to others if they were to look at it from ‘his point of view’ makes them even stronger as characters.
Another pitfall is to play out the story line the way the hero, or heroine would like it to be played. Being humans, we’d all like things to go our way… they rarely do however, and that’s what makes life (and stories) interesting.
Put the screws to your good guys. Make them work for the things they want. This is true, but even harder, in novellas, and I see too many examples of the ‘easy way’ taken in those. Treat them the same as any novel. The best way to bring out the character of your characters is to give them more to do than smile all the time.
Ah… the next point. Those little smiley tags.
“I just love what you did with that window.” She smiled.
“This is just a wreck!” he said smiling.
Give me a break, no one smiles as much as we have a tendency to make them do in print. Okay, I do, she said as her lips twisted into a wry smile.
Make those little emotion tags work for you. Wry smiles, twisted smiles, forehead-furrowing frowns, give all the emotions more impact than, she smiled, he frowned. Work your characters to their fullest. If he smiles, it better be a reasonable response. If his world is crashing down upon him, and he’s smiling, I’m not going to read the book any further, I’m going to call the psyche ward and have him committed.
What are some of the ways you make your characters come through in your stories? What little tricks do you use to make them come to life? How hard are you on those you love the most (your darlings)? Turn up the heat, and make them sweat… and don’t let them smile while you do it!