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Ever notice how there are only actually a couple smurfs? In the whole smurf village there are only a small handful of individuals. For the most part, they look the same. They talk the same. They react the same. They all have quite the dependence on Papa Smurf to do all the thinking. They even have the same voice.
Don't get me wrong, I grew up on the smurfs and they should remain just the same. But when this starts describing all the characters in a book it is likely a sign of a problem.
Just to test yourself, take the names out of entire dialogues. How easy is it to hear a difference in the way the characters express themselves and they way they think? People don't all sound the same--neither will good characters. If your characters are all sounding or thinking alike, re-evaluate them. Dig deeper. As a writer, you should know more about your characters than the reader will ever learn. Not just the main characters, either. Think about each character that makes an appearance in the book:
- What are their goals?
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- How do they perceive themselves?
- How driven are they to pursue what they want?
- What are their quirks?
- What is their baggage?
- How do they react in scary situations?
- How do they react in a crowd?
- What makes them self-conscious?
- What is their background like?
- What do they think about their life?
- How doe they deal with stress?
- What sort of medical conditions have they dealt with in life?
- What is their financial condition and how does it effect them?
- What is their religious preference?
- Do they like pets?
- How do they look at others around them?
- What prejudices do they have?
- What are their shortcomings?
- Are they ever inclined to be impulsive, if so what situations draw that out?
- How much exercise do they get?
The list can go on and on. If you want to REALLY get to know your characters, pick up "The Plot Thickens" by Noah Lukeman. By the time you answer his pages of questions, you will know your characters inside and out.