How to Give your Characters a Distinctive Attitude

Sad dog

Attitude:

Creating characters that are distinctive, unique, and interesting is not easy. It’s far easier to fall into the trap of assembling bland puppets that simply drive the plot forward, with little regard to attitude.

What is attitude? It’s the underlying manner that motivates and shapes the way that characters speak, move, make decisions. It is the summation of a character’s backstory, value system, and intention.

An attitude can be optimistic, pessimistic, challenging, proud, sardonic, supercilious, courageous, cowardly, and so on.

How do you check for this distinctive quality in your characters? You simply ask yourself whether, in a scene where, say, two or more characters interact, you could swap dialogue and action between characters without a jarring loss of consistency. If you can, your characters are not distinctive, but are merely promoting the plot through their actions and dialogue.

Who but Bart would utter this eternally memorable line: Eat my shorts? Or, Bruce Banner warn: Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like it when I’m angry, or Dorothy: Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

Can you imagine Bart swapping lines with Marge without our noticing? Not only would the speech idiom and expression be wrong, but the sort of things that Bart and Marge get up to wouldn’t tally.

Keeping a clear attitude in mind as we construct the characters in our stories will help us funnel dialogue and action in a way that makes them distinctive and keeps them on track.

Summary

Create a distinctive character attitude, garnered form character biography and backstory, to help you create effective and memorable characters.

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Image: Rhys A
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