5 Ways to Avoid Character Confusion

When I’m writing I can picture all the characters from my story interacting. In my mind they are fully realized individuals with their own strengths and personalities. They entertain me with their uniqueness, their specific way of speaking and their wacky fashion statements. It’s easy to forget that a reader coming to my work fresh might not perceive the characters as I do! Readers will need to be shown all the things that make a character unique before that character comes to life for them.

Continually putting myself in my reader’s shoes and trying to view the story as someone else helps me keep from getting lost in my own imagination or taking my characters for granted.

Here are a few of the tricks that I find myself using over and over again in order to craft characters who are separate and distinct from one another.

  1. No nicknames. Yes, Lord of the Rings has multiple names for characters and so does Game of Thrones. It definitely can be done, but since my goal is to avoid character confusion I stay away from nicknames.
  2. Unique name first letters. No matter how three dimensional I have made my characters, when I put Stacy and Shena in a story together it will confuse the reader.
  3. Keeping a list. At the front of each project I tally up the names of the players in the story. This is not intended for the reader, just for my own reference while writing.
  4. Resisting the urge to solve plot problems with new characters. Whenever I am tempted to bring a new character into a story, I go back to the list and think hard about who else could possibly solve the problem at hand.
  5. Writing well. By writing characters who each speak in a unique voice I am inviting readers to appreciate each character’s distinct point of view.

Keeping these things in mind as I write helps me to faithfully show the reader the amazing person I have imagined.

Muriel is the creator of 'Documinutes: 60 second documentaries' and a contributor to the podcast 'This Manic Mama.'

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