(part 4–Ally’s philosophy about characters)
31. Know who your main character is. This may sound obvious, but I remember struggling with that issue when writing my first book—there were so many characters swirling around in my head that it was hard to focus on the main one and remember that my job was to tell his story well.
32. Unless you’re quite literally writing the life story of your characters, then your characters lived before your story began and, in most cases, they will continue to live after. Write like it. Give them quirks and histories and inside jokes. Because people have those things. And great characters always feel like real people.
33. Make your characters unique—both from other characters in history and from each other. Generally speaking, if a character isn’t adding something to the overall story, throw them in the ditch.
34. Write dialogue that is as realistic as possible. Listen to how people speak. Capture that.
35. Unless what your character looks like is important…it isn’t important. If her raven hair makes her look exactly like an international assassin and that’s why the FBI starts trailing her—then yeah, mention the hair. But don’t get hung up on what’s going on in your character’s mirror—be more concerned about her head and her heart.
36. Know your characters. Know them well. What kind of toothpaste would she buy? What does her favorite outfit look like? Where would he sit in math class? These are the little decisions that show who we are as people.
37. Every character should contribute to the plot in some way, large or small, positive or negative.
38. Sometimes it can help to think about who would play your character if the story were to be made into a movie. Now, don’t get hung up on that—at all! The odds of a movie getting made are slim to none, but I do find that it can help sometimes to close your eyes and envision a scene and then write what you see and hear.
39. When writing supporting characters I think it’s important that they do just that—support. They should be what your main character is not (for the most part). Complementary strengths and weaknesses can help your characters to rely on, envy, learn from, etc. each other. It gives you—and them—a lot of places you can go.
40. Ultimately, good books are the stories of how a character changed. Maybe the change was physical or emotional or mental—but your character should be different at the end than he/she was at the beginning.