Can you summarize your character in a a few words? This is an excellent question for so many reasons, many of them explained in this blog post in which the author uses a two-word thumbnail description for each character. I found two words too hard but summaries of my characters that are five words or less helped me delve into the core of their beings.
In my YA crime novel, The Truth and Other Strangers, my main character is Junior Lody, and three relatives are the other major characters, who help him in his efforts to hold his family together. Below are the thumbnail descriptions:
- Junior Lody: sixteen years old, intelligent, protective worrier
- Mike Lody: Junior’s twenty-one-year-old uncle. Hot-tempered, loud-mouthed, big-hearted.
- Gabe Lody: Junior’s sixteen-year-old cousin: nervous, eager to please, musician.
- Merritt Lody: Junior’s fifteen-year-old half brother: easy-going, optimistic, nature-lover.
Having those summaries in mind are a great help when I’m writing a scene and I’m not sure who should say or do what. Knowing each character’s core personality helps the narrative to ring true. It also helps me when I develop new characters. If I already have a character with a comeback for everything, do I really need another? If I do, perhaps the new character can be a foil for the old one. If I find I have two characters with similar summaries, it may be time to eliminate one.
Probably because I grew up as one of four sisters, I tend to think of characters interacting in groups of four. I understand that kind of relationship dynamic and how four different personalities can play off each other.
Recently I’ve been working on the personalities of four grown siblings in their thirties, who would appear in a series of mysteries. I’m having trouble with the youngest. Here’s what I have so far.
- Oldest sister: Thirty-nine, dreamy writer and family peace-maker.
- Oldest brother: Thirty-seven, big-hearted, protective law enforcement officer.
- Youngest sister: Thirty-three, impulsive, enthusiastic private investigator.
- Youngest brother: Thirty-one, ??????
I’d like the Youngest Brother to be a first responder. I’ve been thinking about a firefighter or paramedic. I also think he should be quiet, balancing his more extroverted siblings, Oldest Brother and Youngest Sister. But he just hasn’t come into focus for me. I may have his face wrong, and that’s why I can’t work on him. I know I need four siblings and not three and he should be male. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
And please share any thumbnail descriptions of your characters below. I’d love to hear about them!