How Do I Characterize My Story?

Aug 15 21:00 2002 ARTHUR ZULU Print This Article

If art is a reflection of life, then there should be people in your story. Because in life, people make history. Either for good, or for bad.

It is just as easy to create characters in a story. Now,Guest Posting look around you. Are there not people whose attitude interests or puzzles you? Or do you remember reading of one strange character in a storybook?

So, using your sources you may have developed some characters for your best seller.

Now, in characterization (for that is the name they call it), there are two types: the real characters and the stereotypes. And these characters may either be good or bad as in real life situation. Some are going to play principal roles, while others will play minor roles, also as in true-life situation. Again, they may be of different backgrounds and nationalities.

The following questions will help you to make effectivecharacterization.

1.Who Should Be a Character?
That depends on the nature of your story. Anything could be a character. In the Bible, a snake and a donkey spoke(Do they still talk?) And trees were characters in a mock drama. (Someone says they still do speak to those who understand them.) Even the Devil himself had a conference with God. (I don’t think they are still in speaking terms).

So, your characters may be humans (DAVID COPPERFIELD by Charles Dickens), witches (MACBETH by William Shakespeare), animals (ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell), or the Devil (SATANIC VICARS by Arthur Zulu.) You may even wish to make yourself a character in a fiction as some writers have done. Such ones are often heroes, or heroines –- they play the most important part, and they never die. I am thinking of Thor, in KONTIKI EXPEDITION by Thor Hayerdall.

2.How Should They Be Named?
First, their names should not be two long and foreign that your reader finds them difficult to remember. Abbreviated names, as in Shakespearean works, also cause problems.

Second, use revealing titles like Dr. and Prof., King and Queen, to help your reader grasp them easily. Historical names are beyond compare in this regard. Like Adolph Hitler. Or Winston Churchill. Your reader may have known about them, thus making understanding easy.

Third. The names of your characters may be used to provide clues to your reader. Like Christian and Morality in THE PILGRIMS’ PROGRESS by John Bunyan.

3. How Many Should They Be?
Not too many, if you don’t want to confuse your reader. The principal characters should stand clear from the minor characters. I have read a play of two characters.

4. Are My Characters Believable?
If you start by wondering whether your reader may believe your characters or not, you will not excel. After all, even in real life situations, there are persons who behave as if they are not of this world. Your reader may identify with one or two of your characters.

Have you read Charles Dickens? You may have noticed that his characters are larger than life –- unbelievable. There was one of his characters (I can’t remember his name now), in his book, DAVID COPPERFIELD, whose life pre-occupation was the compilation of a dictionary. And there he was, struggling some where in letter “D” or so, in his old age, but still optimistic of reaching his cherished goal before the final call. Do such people live on earth? Yet, Charles Dickens remains the greatest novelist, who has ever lived.

5. How Should They Speak?
You will have to vary the speech patterns of your characters. From the royal and dignified speech of a king, to the learned and pedantic discourse of scientists; from the lowly and untrained language of a court servant, to the meaningless quibbling of a child.

In short, the speeches should reflect the various social, cultural, and educational backgrounds of your characters.

6.What Are My Characters’ Motives?
There should be a motive for the actions of your characters. Or is it not so in life? For example, why do people love, or hate one another? Why do some kill, while others like charity? Why do people work? Or why do they have ambition? Or, to bring the chickens to roost –- why do you want to write a best – seller?

If your reader doesn’t find satisfactory motives behind the actions of your characters, then you have not communicated.

7. Do my Characters Contribute to the Development of my Story?
This is a good question. In story writing, you may decide to be he story-teller. Or, you may leave that task to one, or several of your characters. What your characters say, therefore, should have bearing to the subject matter, and the outworking of your story. Put differently, they should do the work you want them to do.

Do you want them to fight over something, or to love or kill themselves? Which character is doing what, and which characters are in the know, or are ignorant of those actions?

In doing so, you are using your characters to inform your reader. And if you do it well, you would have succeeded in pulling out a good story.

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Arthur Zulu, The Most Controversial Writer in the World, is the author of the best – selling book, HOW TO WRITE A BEST-SELLER. Download your copy and FREE excerpt at: For FREE writing helps, mailto :

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