When I began writing the first version of Echoes when I was in my late teens I wrote over 50,000 words before I realized I had a big, big problem.
The book was told in dual narration between identical twins – and they sounded identical. The chapters switched back and forth between narrators, but if I just randomly started reading somewhere, unless names were used I had no idea who was narrating. Which pretty much means that one of the narrators was completely unnecessary.
I was excited about the premiss of the book, but I was able to take a step back and realize that my writing experience wasn’t equal to the plot in front of me. So I set the book aside for several years as I worked on learning the craft of writing better, and came up with some pretty cool plot twists.
In November of 2015 I was able to write Echoes again, and this time the identical twins were still twin-ish, but they are unique. Now when I open the book at a random place I can tell which one is narrating within a sentence or two of reading. So, today I thought I’d share some tips for how to create characters that are alike, but don’t blend together.
How to Create Unique Characters
Give them different goals to accomplish – or if they’re both striving for the same goals, give them different “whys” for wanting to accomplish that goal. Nicolette and Raquel are striving for the same goal, and although they might profess to have the same “why” as you get to know the characters more you realize that their real “whys” are quite far apart from each other.
- Give them different personalities. Is one of them easily excitable? Make the other one level-headed. Is one of them kind and gentle? Make the other one abrupt and insensitive. Is one of them forgiving? Make the other one bitter.
- Give them different ways of viewing the world. One of them might see the world through rose-colored glasses while the other might think everyone is out to get her. One of them might see a rainy day and inwardly cheer that she can go dance in the rain, and the other one might see the same day and outwardly fume about the humidity and noise.
- Give them different love languages. (Love languages include 5 things: Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical touch, Words of Affirmation, and Quality time. They are the way a person feels needed or valued – not only in a romantic setting, but also with friends, family, and life in general.) In Echoes Raquel is a physical touch person, which means she’s always hugging her sister, patting someone’s back, squeezing a shoulder in thanks, etc…. Nicolette is more of a Words of Affirmation person and is always expressing gratitude, and very rarely uses words in a saucy way like Raquel does.
Give them different talents. One of them can be athletic, while the other one is more into the logical side of things. One can be a fantastic cook while the other one is an artist. No matter what talents you choose for them, make sure that they stay consistent with who the person is. An artist will notice things throughout the book that a chef wouldn’t notice, and so on….
There are also various other things like giving them different quirks, disabilities, or physical traits that set them apart. For my characters, they’re identical twins, so I wanted them to be alike. I just had to make sure they weren’t too much alike.
What about you? What are some ways you’ve discovered for making characters different from each other?