Listen, it happens to the best of us. Sometimes your characters can’t seem to find their personality. That’s okay! You have to write a few Mary-Sue’s to get in the groove of writing. But what happens when all of your characters sound, look, and read the same way? It’s time to shake things up. And here’s how to do it.
1) Speech patterns
No two people speak exactly the same way, so neither should two characters. When writing your characters, consider where the story takes place. What kind of accents do those people have? How can you reflect that in your writing? Is one of your characters from someplace that isn’t the setting of the story? Then they shouldn’t talk like the characters native to the setting. Some people have phrases they say a lot, what’s your character’s? Does your character swear? How often? These are questions we don’t think about a lot, but they’re important to consider, and can add another interesting layer to your character.
2) Avoid cliches like the plague
How many times have you read the phrase “She’s not like other girls” recently? My guess is too many. We know you want your character to be different, but saying things like that show us that she’s actually like so many other female characters. She becomes boring. And besides, what’s wrong with other girls? It’s easy to fall into the trap of “he had eyes like sapphires and a heart of gold,” but what does that actually tell us about the character? Sure, he has blue eyes and he’s nice, but so are most other characters out there. Try to avoid gem colors when describing eyes. You’re a writer, you’re creative, and you’ll think of something! Keeping away from cliches like that can help you write a more well-rounded, developed character than the one you may have written with them.
3) Quirks are key
Nobody’s perfect, so your characters shouldn’t be either. Everyone’s got a bad habit they’re trying to quit. Does your character bite their nails? Do they twirl their pens when they’re thinking? And connecting to that, what’s their biggest pet peeve? You can tell so much about a person’s personality from what they find annoying. And when they’re annoyed, how do they react? Are they polite when asking the person tapping their pen on the desk to stop? Or do they keep it bottled up until it bellows out in rage? A scene where your character sings in the shower might not be necessary to the plot, but it will give the readers something to chuckle about, and it gives us insight into their personality.
Nobody is perfect, so why are so many characters? Everyone has their vices, their hangups, what have you. No character should be without flaws. Maybe they’re a jealous person, or they’re klutzy, or a slob. Flaws are different from quirks because quirks because flaws have a majorly negative connotation, where flaws do not. That doesn’t mean someone’s flaws can’t be seen as endearing! (I personally find klutzes absolutely adorable). But flaws add a reality to characters that you don’t often get in first drafts.