To truly lift a two-dimensional depiction off the page and give it flesh in the mind’s eye, you will simply need magic. Sacrificing the farm’s prized pig to pagan gods is always a safe bet, but if you don’t have any innocent chubby animals lying around, you will instead need to pay utmost attention to detail.
Both your character’s physical carriage and spiritual demeanor need to be perfectly vivid in your own mind before another can believe they exist. You must spend endless hours dwelling in the psyche of your character as you write their dialogue and actions. Be them for a moment, and see what happens: do you find yourself hunching your shoulders forward shyly and using your hair to cover your face? Or are you clenching your fists until your nails dig into your palms? All of this is important. You can describe the character’s coyness or rage through showing its physical representation—pay attention to the specifics. Are you glancing furtively around the room through unkempt strands? Does your character have stringy, greasy hair from recent battles and distress? Are there little half-moon imprints on your palms from the force of your grip? Are your character’s nails long and manicured or stubby and broken?
Although the situation at hand might be much larger than fingernails or hair, these are human visuals that can help to connect the reader with the action. If you are writing scenes of suspense or horror, the essential element is not the environment but the lucidity and consistency of the character’s reaction to the stimulus. If your character feels nausea, your reader will experience the nausea through imagination. Many of my readers tell me that they often skip extensive descriptions of surroundings to get back to the character’s dilemma.
People read for a human connection. Going the extra mile to create intensity of sensation causes a deep bond to form between your reader and your character—like any two people going through a difficult situation together, it may cause them to grow closer and become friends. For if your character is real enough your reader will grow to see that person as either an extension of their own self or a close friend.
Much like children, you can guide the general upbringing of your creations, but they will often choose their own path. You might want to remember that just because a character is believable doesn’t mean your readers will consider him or her likeable! You will have to decide which is more important—it is realistic for readers to have feelings of extreme fondness and extreme distaste for the people you’ve created, regardless of your intentions.
If you treat your characters with the love and attention you would give to your own children, your readers will surely grow attached to them!
Nadia Scrieva was born in 1988 in Toronto, Canada. She studied English and Anthropology, graduating with a B.A. from the University of Toronto in 2011. Writing has been the most meaningful part of her life since she was a child. She was employed as a model for several years, and she has a fondness for knives. Nadia loves receiving feedback from readers, so do not hesitate to contact her with any of your comments, questions, ideas, or just to say hello.
You can visit her at http://nadiascrieva.blogspot.ca