How To Liven Up Your: Cast Of Characters

August 16, 2017


   The lifeblood of a story. Probably one of the only we reasons we read a story. Which means you need to get them spot-on. Welcome to the very very belated (my apologizes) sixth and final post in my How To Liven Up Your Character series.

post one: How To Liven Up Your Leader Character
post two: How To Liven Up Your Mentor Character
post three: How To Liven Up Your Villain Character
post four: How To Liven Up Your Secondary Character 
post five: How To Liven Up Your Main Character

How To Liven Up Your: Cast Of Characters [Header Image]

1. Diverse Backgrounds - And Diversity In General 

   Sit down in a busy place, and take a look around. No one is alike - whether it be in looks, personality, or background. This is how it should be in books, and this is how you want it to be with your own characters.
   I can't pinpoint a book that's super diverse (at the moment - I'm sure my goldfish brain will think of one right after I hit 'publish' on this post), but in my own novel, Killing Snow, I try as well as I can to make everyone unique. There's people of different races, people with disabilities, people with personalities and interests spread across the whole board.  And one of the books I'm currently working on has a main character that's from Saudi Arabia (but of course plot bunnies are still attacking me left, right, and center - so we'll see how long said story sticks around xD).
   I've found that a lot of races aren't represented in YA books. Maybe it's just the books I've read, but it certainly seems that way to me. And I rarely see people with certain disabilities in books. People aren't all the same, so you need to keep your characters from always being the same, too.  

2. Not Having Too Many, And Knowing When To Introduce Them

Cover image of Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
   Knowing when to add characters is just as important as knowing where to stop. While certain genres are perfect from 1.7 million characters running around (Epic/High Fantasy, for instance), most genres do not need that many major characters. 
   Take the Lunar Chronicles, for instance. Marissa Meyer not only balanced her character amount perfectly, she also knew when and how to add them in. Marissa didn't dump a dozen characters on us at once. And that was perfect, because it gave us time to get well and fully attached to her entire cast. By the end of the series, she had quite a few characters in her series, but she'd placed them in so carefully that we were able remember who each of them were. Dumping a bunch of characters on readers from page one does exactly the opposite - readers will get characters confused (especially if names are too similar, so watch out for that), and it's harder to get attached until much later in the book.
   So how major characters does your book have? Did you throw them all in at once, or did you space them out? Try having a friend read it, and ask them if they can pinpoint and remember the characters you introduce.

3. Uniqueness

   If you have a cast of characters and the characters are all too alike, your readers are probably going to get bored. You need to keep each character unique, not only because readers love unique characters, but unique characters can be the heart of a story.
   Uniqueness normally comes in two different ways - there's unique as in 'all your characters are different from each other' and there's unique as in 'big personalities'. It's a good thing if your book has both, because readers love it.
   The Wingfeather Saga has some of the most unique characters out there, in my opinion. It's not a super well-known series (and the first book starts out a bit childish, but oh my does the series hit epic levels later on), but the characters are amazing. Every single one of them is very different - in very unique ways, what with some of them having very big personalities - and they all play different roles in the series.  This series scores high on the uniqueness scale.
   So, how well are you doing this with your book? Don't insert two characters where only one is needed - if two characters are too alike, and it wouldn't hurt your story to cut one, then cut one. Sometimes less is more. And it's a good idea to give at least one of your characters a big personality - one that's either sarcastic, flat-out crazy, or one of those "adorable cinnamon roll" characters, etc. Those are always tons of fun ;).  

4. Realism

   This one should be obvious, seeing as I've beaten you over the head with in almost every How To Liven Up Your Character post that I've done. Sorry I'm not sorry xD. But realism is important! In emotions, in reactions, in characters, and in every part of your story.
   There's one thing that I especially hate in stories - when one character kills another, and they don't have any feelings over it. No. No. Maybe this could work if your character shoot another over a long distance, but if they're near each other? Then no. This is not normal, and this is not human. Please don't do this. If your character kills someone else, they are going to think about it, and they're probably going to stress over it, and that moment might replay in their nightmares for years. The first day they took a life with their own hands isn't something they're going to forget. It's things like this that you need to look for, and make more realistic.
   Another thing that's unrealistic in story is what isn't mentioned. Your character is human, and humans get hungry. Humans get sick. Humans have days where they're angry for no reason. And your character needs to be human - we need to connect with them! So make sure that they're realistic and enough for us to relate to, at least on some level. 
   Place yourself in your characters shoes. How would you be feeling in their situation? Is it as realistic as it could be? Have you left things out that could be mentioned to make it more realistic?

5. Character Arcs

Cover image of Caraval, by Stephanie Garber
   Characters arcs were something I found out about after I got serious about writing, but I wish I had known about them earlier! I still have trouble with them, but it's an important thing for a character (most importantly, a main character) to have.
   To put in plan and simple: a character arc is how your character changes during the story
    I've always had a hard time pinpointing what a "character arc" really is - point out most any book to me, and I'll look at the main character, shrug, and say "I have no clue what their arc is". But I think I'm slowly figuring it out. Like I said, a character arc is the way the character has made a turn around from who they were, to who they are now. And we have to be able to see that they've changed. Take a look at Scarlett from Caraval (by Stephanie Garber). In the beginning, she's brave, but doesn't know how to stand up for herself very well - and by the end, she's definitely learned how. I can't tell you too much without giving spoilers, but there it is. And it's a good example of a character arc! You could easily see where Scarlett started from, and how far she came.
   So, how's your main character's arc looking? Have they changed from the person they were in the beginning? How? Is it a realistic change, considering what they've been through during the book? Compare your character to who they were in the beginning, and figure out how they've changed.

   And there you have it - the last post in this series! I hope you guys were able to learn a lot about character building. I had some much fun discussing characters with you guys - and I'm excited to start a new series sometime in the next few months! If you have any questions about characters that I didn't address in this series, feel free to give them to me in the comments!

~ Savannah Grace 

   I hope you all enjoyed this series! Should my next series be another about characters, or should I move on to a different aspect of stories? Do you have any more questions about character building (or characters in general)?


  1. Oh, this is perfectly timed! I'm editing my Betrayal and Bravery trilogy, and boy, does it have a lot of characters! I've managed to take a few out, once I realized they weren't needed...but the rest seem to have more or less important roles, so now I'm working on making sure they stand out and are unique in their own special way! Thanks so much for this final post (and I'll have to go check out the other ones in the series)!

    1. I'm SO glad that it was! (and The Betrayal And Bravery Trilogy is one of the most epic trilogy names, just saying) Haha, I have your exact opposite problem - I constantly feel like I don't have enough characters! xD I hope it's not too hard for you to get that figured out - it's SO HARD to cut characters. Much ouch. Best of luck, Julian!

  2. Eeeeek! This title made me so excited! ;)
    It's interesting that you would mention introducing characters slowly enough, as you've always been particularly good at this (even in Azure, which is the closest I've come to wondering if you'd introduced more characters than you could handle--I never mixed characters up, or felt mobbed by them). It is disorienting when an author introduces too many characters at once, but the funny thing is that I see this in classics all the time--The Hobbit introduces all thirteen dwarves in the first chapter, Little Men (sequel to Little Women) introduces at least eight characters in a few paragraphs. It's interesting.
    And just YES!! to diversity and character arcs! Can I just say here that you nailed the latter in Killing Snow? I know you've said Raven doesn't have a good character arc, but I'd argue she does...
    I'd love to hear more about Savannah's characters! #alwaysandforever I just texted you a question about character building, so I guess I'll let you answer it there. :)

    1. Eheh, that was one of the series where I actually WAS overwhelmed - I kid you not, I had a document that I labeled 'ducks in a row' where I wrote down all the names of the major characters so that I wouldn't forget any of them, ha xD.

      You really think? *gets warm fuzzies* Thank you so much, girl! I'm so happy that you think that - and I hope you STILL think it when you read Killing Snow in novel form! :D

      I texted back! And trust me, you'll be hearing more about my characters soon. I'm hoping to post a TINY bit about my new Snow White retellings on here sometime soon ;).

    2. I love ya, girl. I think I'll still love KS in novel version--I mean, it's Savannah Grace! (Have I seen her write a bad story??) I can text you sometime with more in-depth thoughts on character arcs, because spoilers.

      Ooooh, give us snippets!! *puppy dog eyes* Also, I just read the new Asher Grey snippet and OH MY GOSH!!!! Can I have this story NOW??

  3. Just out of curiosity: what races/disabilities would you want to see more of in YA fic? I can think of a few, but what are your thoughts?

    I love character building. Thank you so much for doing this series. It's been so helpful. Maybe you could do a series on plot next? Lol.

    1. Huh, that's a tough question. I think more characters that are mute would be nice to see (even those this is a tall order because it would be so HARD to pull off a good mute character - dialogue is used so much in stories), and I'd love to see more characters from the middle east.

      You're welcome! I'm so glad that it was helpful ;).

    2. My Robin Hood retelling will have a character who's mute in some way (I'm honestly not yet sure if it's going to be selective, disability, or just a vow of silence yet), so while I'm not sure when that's going to get written, I do have a character like that in the works ;)

  4. I am so sad this is the last of the series!!! But ooooh, was this a good one! Because I have ALWAYS struggled with making my casts very similar or not diverse enough or whatever. I'm a biiiit better at it now? But I still often find that I have at least two very similar characters in one book. And when I was younger I was the WORST at having a HUMONGOUS cast and then introducing them alllll near the beginning. Ugggh. It was bad. So yes, ALL these points are so important for creating a cast.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS WHOLE SERIES. It was amazing! Such great things to look through whilst character building.

    I'm so excited to hear you'll be doing a new series soon! I don't know WHAT I want more. I think I'd be happy with anything! You know I could talk about fictional characters 'til the end of the earth. But it'd also be fun to talk about other aspects, too. So...I DON'T KNOW. Whatever you decide I know it'll be brilliant!

    1. So am I! I had so much fun writing it for you guys (*cough* even if the last post was very late *cough*). Ahaha, it's so funny, because I totally had the opposite problem - in my first stories, I would have maybe three or four characters, and only two of them would be major characters. It was bad xD. SO WE BOTH HAD CHARACTER PROBLEMS - but OH MY yes, you've obviously improved if Burning Thorns is any indication. I LOVE THAT BOOK SO MUCH, I CAN'T <3.

    Loved this post!

  6. *realizes how much her characters need work* *facepalms*

    But THANK YOU for this! Super helpful, super thought-provoking. I'll most definitely be referring back to this post!!!

    1. You're so welcome, Lila Red! I'm glad this was helpful for you :D.


    Also I LOVE CHARACTER ARCS SO MUCH EEK. *ahem* Anyways. They're just so /fun/. Having a big cast is a good point. *squints at my story* I have a slight problem with that one a little because early on in the story I have the protagonist joining a gang. With lots of people. But I don't really introduce them very much so HOPEFULLY THAT'S OKAY. XD I think it's actually not too bad, but it's always good to have reminders. Because I forget. All the time. It's really bad. xP

    Characters are just so much fun. I shall be keeping aaaalllll your tips and notes in mind. Like, forever. *nods*

    1. AH, THANK YOU SO MUCH, PRILL! *flails with you* I can't wait to show you guys what the next one is going to be! (... you know, once I DECIDE what it's going to be ... xD)

      *squints at your large story-gang* WELL, so long as you don't introduce them all at once xD. Your story just keeps sounding better and better and OH MY I can't wait until it's published and I'm able to read it! <3

      YAY, I'm so glad that this was helpful! Thanks for reading, Jane!

  8. I do agree that uniqueness and realism is important! I've seen books where characters do end up um, killing someone, and then they just move on and I'm just in bed calling that out, because honestly since when is killing someone emotionless normal??? Character arcs are the most important things, though-- it's something that I've spent a good several months just figuring out with my novels; it's painful seeing what they go through, but it's important because you want to make your characters better. O.O

    xoxo Abigail Lennah | ups & downs

    1. UGH, YES - I hate it when a character kills someone (mostly when it's at close range) and then ... they don't even think about it. Ever. It's just maddening. Obviously, there ARE some exceptions, but STILL xD.

      Thanks for reading, Abigail! <3

  9. Such a great post! I must go check out the other ones in this series, too.
    Amazing points and so helpful. I totally about the example of Cinder, too - Meyer definitely got that right when it came to her characters.

    Amy @ A Magical World Of Words

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed this :D.

      Meyer got basically EVERYTHING right in The Lunar Chronicles - I just love that series so much <3. Thanks for reading, Amy!

  10. YAS. I need this right now. I just started writing a new book where I'm not that familiar with the characters, so I'm really trying to sculpt them and MAKE THEM GOOD, you know? XD

    1. Well, from what I've read on your blog, your characters are THE MOST EPIC OF EVER, so I'm incredibly excited for the day when you're PUBLISHED and I can read about them!

  11. Great post! I noted that in terms of realism, many fantasy novels are lacking. I've always wondered whether the characters eat or sleep at all! XD Ahhhh, I love the Lunar Chronicles! That was a really good example for character spacing. :)

    1. Yup - even if it is a FANTASY novel, we still have to be REALISTIC. Oh the irony xD. Thanks for reading, Nicole!

  12. I LOVED this series, Savannah! It was so so helpful.


    1. Thank you SO much, Hailey! I'm glad you enjoyed it! <3 <3

  13. YES TO ALL OF THESE. SUPER great tips, Savannah! I always worry about being diverse. I try to include characters from all walks of life in my stories, but sometimes it's really hard for me to incorporate them. :P
    This post is going in my bookmarks! ^_^

    1. I'M SO GLAD THEY WERE HELPFUL! And from what I've seen in your 'character conversations' posts (I know I don't comment on every one, but they're always my favorite posts of yours!), you're doing an EPIC AND AMAZING job with your characters. Keep it up, girl! <3 <3

  14. Great post!
    You could do some posts on your character's emotions. Like, maybe anxiety, depression, or a certain longing. You could say how to really develop a character's feelings in your story. That would be extremely helpful to me. ;)
    I'd love to bring different characters into my WIP at the right time. I feel like I'm moving too fast and I'm on page 17! lol I want to space things out. I had to change a few names because a lot of my characters have the same first letter in their names and that can make things confusing. I don't want my readers to be confused. It's so hard to make each one unique when you seem to have so many. I need more characters to make the story work, but I don't want to overload my readers and make them confused on which is which.
    *heaves a sigh*
    God Bless you, Savannah! <3


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