We know these people in real life – the ones we all find irresistible. But what is it about them? Their looks? Their laugh? Their smile? The manner in which they carry themselves? The way they talk? Something indefinable?
Yes and more is probably the answer to all of these questions. But then a new question arises for the writer: How do I capture something ineffable in words and make my character ooze charisma?
Well, I guess the easiest way to answer that is to just give the character the description of “charismatic” and have other characters in your story affirm that description, but that’s telling, not showing, and if you can’t show it then your reader won’t believe it.
For a charismatic character, interaction is key. This is really where your writing needs to show that your character has some unnameable quality that makes others feel your character’s charismatic pull.
Forbes.Com has a really useful list of 7 personality traits linked with charismatic people. Following this map makes the creation of your charismatic character pretty easy.
1. In social interactions, charismatic people listen actively. This is usually indicated by a verbal utterance, like an “oh,” “ah,” “uhuh,” “oh I see,” “yes,” or “go on.” Listen to people speak and you’ll hear these all the time. For your character to be charismatic, they’ll have to show that they are actively listening to others, and this will usually be done on your part through dialog or inner monologue showing that they are paying attention to whoever is speaking.
2. Charismatic people also speak clearly. Mumblers and grumblers don’t tend to be considered very charismatic. This also includes speaking clearly about the topic at hand and not creating a confusing conversation. Charismatic speakers tend to articulate their points well and show a clear logical flow in their discussions.
3. Charisma takes a smile! On the inside and, usually, some indicator of it on the outside. People with RBF (Resting Bitch-Face) are generally not considered charismatic people, despite being their level of wonderfulness and loveliness because they aren’t giving off an approachable vibe.
4. Good posture is important. Slouchers and people who generally make themselves small aren’t seen as charismatic, but rather as if they have something to hide or are unapproachable. Standing tall and strong helps exude that confidence that charismatic people tend to have.
5. People like praise and compliments, and charismatic people know how to dish those out. Not only are charismatic people quick to give praise, but they give praise that people want to hear. We’ve all gotten those odd compliments that we weren’t sure were compliments like “Oh, your dress is so yellow today!” or “Those shoes aren’t the ones you normally wear, right?” or compliments we weren’t really receptive to, like “I really like a girl with wide birthing hips,” or “Are those real? They’re nice if they’re real.” No, charismatic people do not give backhanded compliments nor inappropriate compliments. They give good compliments like “That paper you wrote was phenomenal,” or “I wish my hair curled as prettily as yours does.”
6. Remember that one time this person you had only met once before ages ago remembered your name? Remember how that made you feel? Charismatic people tend to be really good at remembering names. They only need to hear a name once and they have it down. This makes others feel valued, important, and noticed. Charismatic people automatically (or, who knows, maybe some by intent rather than through automation) remember names and faces, which is part of what makes people drawn to them.
7. Charismatic people make eye contact. This character is never going to be looking off into space or staring down at their shoes. They’ll be looking everyone in the eye from when they first meet and greet to when the character walks away. Eye contact might be a hard thing to write into a story without it sounding redundant, but a few mentions here or there of locked eyes or looking into the other character’s eyes should suffice.
You can follow Amanda on Twitter @ThePandaBard, on Pinterest @ThePandaBard, or on Medium @ThePandaBard. You can also find her research on Academia.Edu at Cpp.Academia.Edu/MandaRiggle.