So,called me out yesterday saying that he wanted to have a sort of... class-y thing made for the fan-fic boards, with various writers giving classes on various aspects of fanfiction and handing out tips of their own. I chose the category of "Characterization" and agreed to make a post to start things off. I will have you warned that I am a poor teacher.
A lot of my readers have noted that the characterization of the folks I use is among my most noticeable traits. I attribute this to a few things:
1. Know the characters. This may seem obvious, at first, but I have a feeling that a lot of people write fanfiction (or even original fiction) starring characters they don't truly understand. In order to truly understand a character you have to see more than the hero. For example, let me present the character I'm most often praised for, Harley Quinn:
Who is she?
- A villain. Most people won't see past that. She's "bad".
- Joker's old girlfriend. People who look past the first will then see this.
- Highly Educated
- A Psychiatrist
- And a pile of other things.
By taking note of all of these things (relevant to your character, obviously) you get a better and better feel for them. Try to piece these together, ESPECIALLY the ones that don't seem like they should work. An insane psychiatrist? How does that work? A childish romantic? That makes no sense! But they all do make sense. Make them make sense to you, and you shall achieve understanding! This is going to be the most important part. Knowing the character's history is also a good idea -- I can't tell you to read every issue of any comic that your character has ever appeared in, but you should have a solid understanding of where they've been and what they've been through. Keeping these things in mind will help you know how they'll react when similar situations come along.
2. Make that knowledge work for you. You can know everything about a character but still not be sure exactly how to get your ideas across to a reader. This is why I usually write in the first person, when I can -- writing from a character's perspective forces you to see things through their eyes, and once you do that, you force the reader to do the same. Even with third person, however, characterization can be achieved through internal monologue. Describing how a character feels about a given situation in great detail shows the reader what kind of person you're talking about.
3. Make them HUMAN. When I write characters, I have a strong tendency to use their real names as opposed to their "super" names. When you start to get up-close and personal with a character, readers want to hear what's happening with Karen Starr -- not Power Girl. Superman is a title, not a name. Clark Kent is where the important internal struggles and tragedy happens. Remember their flaws -- so you're writing Daredevil? He's blind, but he's fine, right? He has that radar sense and stuff. But that doesn't mean he can see the color of a daffodil, stare out across the wide blue ocean, or see the red of a lover's lips before he kisses them. He's alone in a world of gray, and it's your job to convey that drama and emotion. Just because he can GET BY without eyes doesn't make not really wish he still had them. Obviously, this doesn't count for all non-human characters... in that case, make them martian or whatever.
4. When all else fails, fake it 'til you make it. Most characters have tics and other traits that can be EXPLOITED FOR YOUR GAIN (mwahahahah). For example, Harley has her distinctive accent -- even if you have difficulty grasping her playful demeanor, using the accent will both help you "get in the zone" and may trick your reader into thinking you're doing a good job. When writing Catwoman, use cat puns. When writing Batman, use his trademarked vanishing trick. When writing Etrigan, speak in rhyme. You'll figure it out soon enough!
This concludes my lecture on characterization. I hope you all enjoyed it, and for those aspiring writers, I hope this helped.