“How To Show Your Character On The Page”

When my first novel, Fury, went out to publishers it received several rejections giving similar feedback. They couldn’t connect with the main character. They didn’t love him enough. They didn’t warm to him. As the story progressed they became alienated from him.

When you have issues like that with your main character, you have a big problem. I had to wonder if it was a problem too big to fix. Would I ever improve, or would it haunt my second novel, Cradlesnatch?

But then I got to thinking.

I’m okay at writing an action scene but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Between two action scenes, you need a breathing space, a moment where your character can take stock. It’s called a sequel, and I wasn’t using mine right.

A good sequel is the perfect place to let the reader into the inner workings of your character. It needs to show their emotions, dilemmas and decisions.

Emotion

First off you have a perfect opportunity to show how your character is emotionally affected by events in the preceding scene and also their current situation. In the example below Jin is having a bit of a panic attack.

The man hadn’t been learned right. He didn’t know the meaning of quick. Jin could hardly keep her breath. She felt a tightness in her chest, worse than when Cradlesnatch near took her. She prodded Baccarin’s behind as they crawled through the secret tunnels. This was his fault.

Dilemma

Next you get to reveal your character’s inner turmoil as the plot pulls them in a direction against their better judgment. After her panic attack, Jin is torn between the need to keep Maddie safe, and the necessity of getting somewhere quickly.

She could hear Maddie behind, scuffling along on her hands and knees. Did no one have the sense to keep pace? It wasn’t right having Maddie with them, taking her to an Elder house. Jin knew no good would come of it. Already they were slowed by her messing with the shutters. And they had no time.

Decision and Action

Finally, your character shows their true colours by making a decision and acting on it. Jin proves she is so fearful of being late she is willing to keep Maddie with her and hope everything works out.

But what could she do? Elders had blown the final trumpet. There was nothing for it but to carry on and hope for the best.

It is through showing your character’s emotions, inner turmoil and ultimate decision and actions that the reader gets to know who they are.

Visit Lorrie @ her blog.

Lorrie Porter

About Lorrie Porter

In a fit of youthful enthusiasm Lorrie Porter graduated from University College London with a degree in Ancient World Studies then went on to qualify as a teacher in Classics. She loitered for many years in a solicitors’ office where she spent a lot of time staring out of the window. However, her fascination for dead languages and civilizations continues to thrive. She graduated from MMU with an MA in Creative Writing. Lorrie writes fiction which embraces a dark and emotional aesthetic and is currently working on Dead Boy, an adventure set in bygone London. Her other novels are Cradlesnatch, a story about a monster who steals children and Fury, which has wolves, bandits and other miscreants among its pages. Lorrie lives on a narrow boat with her talented husband and impervious cat.