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Paint a credible portrait of your character (Image Licenced under Public Domain)

Does your main character have a habit, mannerism, gesture, or ritual? If not, you might want to consider giving him or her one. Why? Because we all have little habits that we exhibit when we’re nervous, excited, happy, sad, depressed, anxious, and so on. It makes us human. Giving your your main character, and other characters, some unique habit that makes them believable. The habit could be annoying, endearing, offensive, barely perceptible, conscious, or subconscious — but it’s real.

How do you come up with ideas? You could search the Internet, but you should also become a people watcher. Watch your own family, friends, and co-workers. Take note of their voices, their posture, their hands, their feet and legs, and their faces. Here are a few examples to get you started thinking about your character’s habits:

  • Does your best friend always scratch above her eyebrow when she’s thinking about or remembering something unpleasant?
  • Does Dad snap his thumb and middle fingernail when he’s nervous
  • Does your boyfriend always emit an annoying loud belch after a good meal?
  • Does Granny persistently chuckle even when something isn’t funny?
  • Does your professor always bounce her leg when she sits cross-legged at her desk?
  • Does your co-worker insist on applying full make-up before coming to work, fixing it before lunch, and fixing it again before leaving work?
  • Does the cashier at the convenience store always count your change twice before giving it to you?
  • Does your child’s voice rise two octaves when he’s excited?

Now consider these questions:

  • How does the habit show the character’s personality? For example, does the cashier count the change twice because she lacks confidence? Does the co-worker need make-up to boost her self-esteem or is she vain?
  • Will your character overcome this habit by the end of your story or will it get worse?
  • Will another character call him out on the habit because it’s driving her crazy?
  • Does another character subconsciously pick up the habit?

Now… Write away! Make your characters human. Create characters your readers will love and relate to.

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