Back to Basics: Building Character

There seems to be a lot of writers block going around these days, and I’m not immune. In my case, I realized the heroine in the book I’m working on isn’t entirely clear to me. Since most of my work is character driven, this is a serious problem. What’s the solution?

Well, part of what I’m trying starts with the physical and will hopefully end with a crystal clear image of my character and her motivations. I decided to go back to basics. Anyone who has read articles on writing or has attended a convention has heard again and again that you should engage the five senses. I’ve found that this is something that you can apply to the characters and not just the settings and the rest of the plot.

  1. What does the character look like? Is he/she human or alien or a paranormal creature? Tall or short? What color are his/her hair and eyes and skin, and how might the character’s looks have affected the way he/she experiences the world?
  2. What does the character sound like? Does the hero have a deep bass voice? Does the heroine sound sultry? Any accents? How the character speaks can tell you a lot about where they’re from, what their cultural background is, etc.
  3. What does the character smell like? This is an element that’s especially important in shifter romances and the like, though it’s key to every romance. Maybe the hero enjoys the scent of the heroine’s shampoo, or she likes his sexy cologne. It says something about a character if, for instance, the heroine wears expensive perfume versus never wearing anything but the natural scent of her soap.
  4. What does the character taste like? This can deal with something less risqué, like a kiss, to the more erotic.
  5. What does the character feel like? Is the hero covered in scars and has calluses on his hands? Does he have a gentle touch? Does the heroine have the softest caress?

Using the five senses on characters from the beginning can really help define them and make them clearer not only during the writing process, but for readers once the book is finally polished. After all, who doesn’t want to read about a nice smelling, yummy hero?

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