I’m watching the James Patterson Master Class videos, and he said something I’ve been saying for YEARS. Don’t just say that someone is scary/cool/mysterious/whatever. That’s just a cliche that doesn’t get you anywhere. And, frankly, it’s lazy. Say WHY they are. Something they say or do that shows how/why they are what you want people to think they are.
Don’t just say “He smiled darkly.” What’s dark about it? What is the dark intention in his soul (if he has one) that makes his intention dark? Or, what is it that whoever sees him smiling makes them think it’s dark? Or scary. Or cool. Or mysterious. Or whatever.
And I don’t just mean to whip out a thesaurus to think of some other cliche word to replace the cliche word you’re trying to get rid of. THINK. If you can’t explore the depths of your characters, you might as well be writing recipes. Zucchini doesn’t need to know why it’s getting cooked. It just sits there waiting to be baked. Or fried. Or whatever..
I do know people with all the depth of a kumquat, but that’s not what you want to put on your pages for your readers. What you want to share, and what they want to see, are characters that are vibrant and alive. Even the undead ones. Characters with depth, ambition, scope. Qualities that make your readers either love them or hate them. Characteristics that make your readers want to keep turning those pages.
Well, that and a good story.
The point here, is that you need to THINK. Get to know the characters you’re writing about. Have ’em over for tea. Take ’em out for a drive. Throw ’em in with the sharks and see how they handle it. Explore them. Learn them. Watch them. Put a handkerchief in Edna’s pocket as a reminder of her beloved grandmother, which she touches when she’s feeling particularly lonely. Give Skip a weathered hat that he just doesn’t give up for a new one because 1) his favorite team hasn’t won the championship in decades, or 2) he wore that cap when he had a brush with fame and glory when he almost made the majors.
The possibilities are literally endless.
Be creative. Be clever. Be a writer.
Now go. Have fun.