Over 130 million babies are born each year. This year, Jeremiah Jacob is among them. Poor little tyke was wrestled into the world yesterday evening. Not a moment too soon for my sister. Though I think Jeremiah might have preferred his previous home. That's grandkid number sixteen for my parents. Each with his or her own personality and temperament. Funny how different and how alike people who are related can be. Cousins often exhibit each other's gestures and facial expressions more so than siblings do. When they're babies they seem most connect to the family - little blank slates whose features and expressions can be attributed to a sister, a mother, a grandparent. Of course, they are not blank slates. They are individuals, vitally connected and yet completely separate from family. As they grow, their individuality becomes apparent, their uniqueness more defined.
The same is true of our characters. When we begin to write a story, the hero or heroine may seem almost cookie-cutterish, perhaps modeled off of someone we know, or another character we've created. Over time, as the story unfolds and this character's life unfolds with it, s/he becomes an individual, unique and well-defined.
At least that's what's supposed to happen.
It's important that in trying to create real characters we don't create caricatures. Over-blown, over-drawn, cartoonish figures who react and over react to the point that they are (at best) unbelievable or (at worst) unlikable.
I know I've blogged about characterization before, but there is no story without the solid backbone of good characters. Plot and writing skills aside, characterization is what drives your story and makes your readers want to keep right on reading.