Are the characters in your novel distinctly unique from one another?
Over the last few days, as I've been dealing with the reality of life . . . and death, I began to think about the personalities of my cats.
Jordy (passed away at the end of December 2008) was my little lovebug, my little sack of flour, the boneless wonder that I could carry around like . . . well, a sack of flour. He was Mr. Gentle, with a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in him when I rough housed with him. He loved to spend hours in my lap or on my chest.
Tasmyn - well, she's my little bitch. She's been trouble from day one, and I love her dearly. The world seems to bow to her demands, and not the other way around. If she wants in your lap, she'll get up there on her own. If I picked her up to hold her, she'd growl the whole time. She did things on her own terms, thank you very much. For the most part, she lives in her own little world and allows me in from time to time.
Squeaky - the little stray I rescued, much to Tasmyn's dismay. Trust me, it took Taz about 6 years to adjust to Squeaky being in the house. Squeaky seems a combination of Jordy and Taz. She loves to be picked up and held, and likes to sleep between my legs at night. She squeaks all the time, and lord help me if I'm late getting her food in the evening. She sings up a storm. She's also mean as a snake and beats up on Taz just because she can. She also loves to play with the dogs. She's a trip.
So, each of my cats has their own distinct/unique personality. Each of the characters in my novels has their own distinct personality. This doesn't always happen. Sometimes, the characters seem so alike, that it's hard to tell the difference between them, thus, my question . . .
Are your characters unique? Is there enough noticeable difference in their personalities, quirks, hair, eyes, and everything else to make each one stand out to the reader in their own way? In each manuscript you write, do you write about the same character, or are the characters different?
There once was a famous author who did a series of books. His characters were very archetypal - the hero, the heroine, the knight in shining armor, the wise wizard, etc. This author wrote a book a few years ago and . . . I recognized every single character in the book. I knew he had just taken his well-loved characters from his series and given them different names, but they were the same characters.
Let me tell you, I was sorely disappointed. I had paid good money for this book and I found myself with the same characters from his other books. It was sad really.
So, as you create your characters, do you make each of them standout in their own way? Does each character have his/her own personality? Do you always write about strong, vibrant women with a take charge attitude and the only thing that changes is their names and hair color? Or, do you write about strong, vibrant women who are uniquely different?
I think it is so easy to fall into a trap of using the same archetypes in every novel. I think that, as writers, we need to avoid this trap. I don't want to read about the same characters every single time. I want the difference to be noticeable. I want Jared from Margarita Nights to stand on his own from Reed in Wicked Games. I don't want some reader to say, hey, this Reed, he's just Jared with a different name, shorter hair, and aqua eyes. I want the reader to think, gosh, Reed is so dramatically different from Jared.
As you re-read/edit/revise/whatever, pay attention to each character you created. Do you have a bunch of carbon copies? Or, do you have individual characters?