Category Archives: Tagging

Characterization: Tagging

Each person we meet is very different, even if at first they fall under an umbrella like lawyer, brunette, or teen. As writers we can use this to our advantage. But in our case, tag-35797_1280we want each character as different as possible.

One way to keep them sorted is to add tags.

Names must never start with the same letter or sound similar. The more different they are the better. If you can chose one with heritage undertones or deeper meanings, it’s all to the good.

Appearance—it’s the differences between the cast members that make each player stand out. So if everyone has brown eyes but one, she’ll be the tagged with blue eyes, ignoring the rest. Another may have a dimple, a limp, or a crooked smile. There’s more. What about—scuffed boots, torn jeans, creases as sharp as a blade, skin scrubbed pink, scruff—these hint at a characters very nature.

Voice—is as much about what they think as what they say. Like all of us, their words may have a deeper meaning than what comes out of their mouth. Their thoughts and body language might contradict what they say. For example if they lie constantly, let them think the truth and speak the lie. Let the contradictions flow, favorite sayings flourish, impatient interruptions break free.


o External movement–in one case it could be the stance, always at attention. Where another could be the constant tick above their left eye. Incorporate mannerisms when using stage direction to indicate who they are without outright saying it.

o Internal Movement—includes inner thoughts, visceral reactions. How a character feels is not always how they interact. It might be a shock to see an old girlfriend in wheelchair when she used to be a tennis pro. The raw emotions fight to get out as they politely chat. Because we can slow time down to a crawl, we can let the reader in on the character’s inner thoughts. Let them witness him working out how to bring up the chair, then eventually changing his mind. It hurts to much. He doesn’t want to know.

When a character is confronted by an action, they will respond expecting a specific result. Give them core qualities that lead them to unique actions/reactions. Not all people respond the same way. It’s usually the odd man out that will bump up the tension.

Body Language—Keep in mind when using stage direction that much can be said without the character speaking a word. How they stand, sway, fold their arms people-220284_1280can say it all.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas on how to make your characters not only unique but easy to keep track of. Play with it. If you have other suggestions please share. I love to read your thoughts.


**Most info gleaned from: Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain.


Characterization: Readers First Impressions

We, as authors, put our characters into situations and let them loose. Then we make notes as to what they do, who they like, what they know, and all the baggage they drag people-220284_1280along behind them. Eventually we picture a face, a build, an age, etc. and note that too. The more situations our characters face the better we know them the better we can flesh him out.

How to share what we know with the reader?

1st impression – give the reader something right away, just like when you meet someone at a party. Start slowly. Think incredibly tall, great skin, too fat, cheap haircut, intelligent, shy, too in-your-space, sarcastic, stinky perfume, etc. I’ve read more than one story where the main character assigned a label like long nose hairs.

Does it match their role – studmuffin, housewife, paperboy, etc. How will the archetype change to be more realistic, or life like? Long nose hair could be an uppity kind of professor. His nose is prominent because he looks down at people.

Adjust to suit – As we all know first impressions can be misleading and very hard to forget, so look for depth, inner conflicts, and inconsistencies within the character. Make sure you know what is really going on behind those eyes? Is their humor funny or a barrier to hide behind? Or is cruelty their an attempt at naked honesty.

And keep track, Use any method that suits like index cards for example. This will help to keep each character consistent and within their spectrum.

Add some easy to remember tags. To keep your characters as individual as possible tag-35797_1280and help the reader distinguish one from the other, use tags. The most common ones fall under name, appearance, voice, behavior (thoughts & actions), & body language. Gage the number of identifiers with the character’s role and how often they make an appearance. If they only show up twice, they may only get a job title or hair color.

I’ll be posting more on tags next month. Anyone else have suggestions on making characters pop from the first impression. I’d love some tips myself. 🙂