What’s your signature styling? Have you given your characters a signature style?
I’m not talking about signing your name – but the clothes they wear, how they where their hair or any other factoid that they may be “known” for.
For me, I am known for my taste in shoes. Seriously! I have been stalked by women who are either admiring my shoes or trying to catch up to ask me where I got them from. The ladies where I buy my lunch love to check out my shoes and hang out for when I wear new ones. My love of shoes may have something to do with the fact I worked at a shoe shop when I was a teenager.
This topic might seem like an excuse to show off my shoe collection, but there is more too it than that for your writing. If you want to make a character memorable then it’s a good idea to give them some signature character traits, something that makes them stand out from other characters. It doesn’t have to be simply clothing, it could be hairstyles, things that collect or personality traits.
People watching is a good way to ascertain traits that make people stand out. There is a work colleague of mine who regularly changes her hair colour. Every time I visit her office I’m always interested to see what “new hairdo” she will be sporting.
Sometimes people have catch phrases that they use over and over again. My brother-law continually says “indeed” in conversations. A guy a work with greets me on the phone with “Hey what’s happening.” Dialogue can be a good place to differentiate your characters.
Personal habits can be another defining feature. A woman I know has a habit of pursing her lips then twitching her mouth from side to side. Other people chew their nails, fiddle with their hair, tap their feet, wrinkle their noses or bit their lip when nervous or worried.
These little idiosyncrasies are part of what creates a complete persona for characters and we need to consider these types of things when writing.
It’s not surprising that I’ve made the title character from my first novel Mishca, a lover of shoes. Most writers have a bit of author insertion in their debut novel. My second novel’s main character Leena is not so fussed about footwear but lives in drill pants and work shirts with her job as an environmental consultant. She also likes her personal spaces and has a bit of a potty mouth.
Sometimes you can plan your characters’ traits by creating bios for them. Other times they just evolve as you write. Just make sure you don’t have flat Mary-Sues or Gary Stus. Make a rich character with a unique voice and qualities that set them apart.