Jack Campbell http://johnghemry.com/ A science fiction writer of five series, (I recommend the Lost Fleet, Beyond the Frontier, and the Lost Stars series) Jack Campbell names characters only if they are important–so the admiral gives the order to the “watchstander” instead of naming him Ensign Henri Olson. Over 13 novels, being given fewer names to keep track of is a real blessing. (Think David Weber and the Honor series for the opposite).
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. www.suzannecollinsbooks.com When I finished the series, I wondered how she had kept so many characters clear in my mind, so I went back and counted, 26 including a dead father in the first book. This is the average character count for a novel, so how come it felt like so many more were in there? “Mob references” were used throughout the series, “people from the seam,” “no one from District 12,” “I had heard that in District 4”, “people in the Capital”, etc. Then she gave the same characters several references, the tributes from District One, their names, and the nicknames they had acquired. These techniques helped make the book feel much more densely populated than it was. Great for portraying a war.
What techniques do you use to handle your crowds? Let us know.
“…in order to create a character—think him up, animate him, stick with him for five hundred pages—a writer has to be enthusiastic about that character. Even if not everybody else is… All this is much easier if you have created original, complex, individual characters in the first place…”
Dynamic Characters: How to create personalities that keep readers captivated, Nancy Kress, now contributor to Writer’s Digest (monthly columnist to WD for many years)
Nancy advises to make the reader’s first encounter with your character memorable.
- create a visual image, so we can picture the character in some important way
- tell us something about the person inside
- convey an impression of individuality, of someone unique and interesting, whom we will want to know more about.
To indicate personality, you can use a character’s appearance, her own reaction to her appearance, choice of clothes, details of the home, personal taste, and mannerisms. And you can use appearance to indicate a temporary situation, change of style, clothes when one who was poor becomes rich.
- Choose details that create strong visual images.
- Choose details that add up to an accurate, coherent impression of your character’s personality.
- Use word choices that further reinforce this impression.
- Don’t choose too many details. Quality over quantity.
- Use your effective details the first time we encounter your character, so we will want to keep reading.