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You already know a thing or two about creating a character. I wrote about some basics in my “Search and Destroy: Mary Sue” article.
What I’m about to write here will be closely connected to that previous post.

There are many ways of creating a character. And however you do it, I want you to remember one thing:

You will always know more about your character than your reader will ever be able to learn.

So:

RULE ONE: Don’t force information about your characters onto your readers.

To address the newest buzz.
Let’s say you’re character is gay.
Not many authors have the opportunity to give the readers additional information in interviews, like JKRowling did. The vast majority approaches the subject more like Neil Gaiman.
So ask yourself this: How relevant is this to the plot?

Stephen is a PI. He recently accepted a job from Nicole, a woman one could describe as an old fashioned femme-fatale. He needs to find Nicole’s nephew before Evil Uncle John takes over the family empire.

See, I know Stephen is gay. But unless it becomes a part of the plot, I won’t be including it in the story. So I have to ask myself if this fits anywhere in the story.
Was Stephen fired from the PD because of his sexuality? Is Nicole trying to seduce him to manipulate him into helping her? Is Stephen’s boyfriend somehow connected to Evil Uncle John? Or is he Stephen’s ‘contact’ in the PD?

Questions like that will help you whether or not ANY aspect of your character is relevant and should be placed in the story.

RULE TWO: Show, not Tell.

This particular rule applies to most aspects of your story, not only your characters. But it’s especially important if your readers are to like characters you introduce.

Stephen is patient, methodic and a romantic at heart. He only drinks Earl Grey tea and is allergic to seafood. He’s also a very private person and is uncomfortable sharing personal details with strangers.

Those are some of the facts I know about Stephen. And because they define him, I want readers to know them too.
But I can’t simply list them somewhere in the story. Because me saying so won’t make Stephen patience appear from nowhere. BUT, if Stephen explains to Nicole for the sixth time that “no, she cannot go with him to see Evil Uncle John”, and remains calm despite her ‘whining’… Then yes. Situation like this really shows Stephen has patience. And should in fact be a saint.

See how that works?

Introduce your character by showing them in situations that will show their personality, their quirks and mannerisms.

RULE THREE: Allow for exceptions.

It’s not so much a rule but an exception from two previous rules. And you can use it if you’re planning to target your novel at certain people.
Let’s go back to Stephen’s gayness to illustrate that.

If I wanted to target The “Stephen the PI” novel at a gay community, than I would make a point of the fact that Stephen is in fact gay. I would throw in some domestic scenes between Stephen and his partner. Hell, I would even started the novel itself with some domestic bliss interrupted with a phonecall from Nicole.

If you’re targetting your own novel at some specific audience you need to make sure your main character (or at least any of your minor characters) is a part of that community.

You want all those insecure teenage girls to read your book? It needs to start a teenage insecure girl.
And so on and so forth.
True targeting your novel is more of a marketing area but it still needs to be introduced at an early stage so you can tweak the character and make it fit.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts?

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