Skip to main content

5 Tips to Creating Characters

Characters are the life blood of any good book. I say that when teaching all my writing classes and it is always the first place I start when developing a storyline. Without characters the reader cares about the story is going nowhere.

So how you go about making your characters different, especially when you are writing multiple books? How do you keep them all from sounding and looking alike, or heaven forbid, sounding like you?

1. Start with a good name. I always find that my characters begin to come alive as soon as I name them. I always love to tell the story of how my brother began writing a book, but he couldn't be bothered with naming his characters. As a result they all sounded alike. When I asked him what they looked like, he didn't feel the need to describe them either. As a result the story sort of died. We had all these shapeless lumps speaking, but they were all the same. That was fine if he was writing some sort of space adventure, but even then no one was going to read it if the only definition was Char (character) 1 or Char 2 with no sort of personalization. Names can define a character and as soon as you name the character, they will begin to become a person. Think of it this way a Frank is going to be different from someone named Franklin or Frankie. 

2. Build a character profile. That can begin with the character name. From there you can begin to see that shapeless lump move from an anonymous being to a real person. Keep it simple if you want, but think of them as you might create a building. Start with size, and then become more precise. Color of eyes, color of hair will all make a difference in making your characters different.

3. Create a personality. No two people will face a situation the same way. Think of your story question and then consider how different people might handle it. Give the character something to go after--a goal--and then you can see what kind of character you want to tackle the situation. If you want the character to have a really hard time, make your character weaker in that area so they can grow and eventually succeed. Or perhaps you don't want them to succeed. Either way, the kind of character you put into the situation will determine how the story flows.

4. Teach your character a lesson.  No one wants to read a story where the character is going to be able to accomplish everything they set out to do from the get go. If the character can't suffer at least a little and be tested in the story, who will care. We want our characters to struggle and we want the struggle to be worthy of the character. 

5. Make your character individual.  Remember no two people sound exactly alike or react the same way to situations. Be sure that the various characters within your story are very different people and make them unique in their own way.


Popular posts from this blog

5 Tips for Writing Romantic Suspense

My writing career started off as a romance writer but I soon got the urge to write suspense as well. As I explain to friends and readers, those bodies just started falling and they kept turning up in strange places to ruin my romances until I couldn't very well ignore them. I had to include them in my romance stories and have my hero and heroine not only fall in love but solve the crime too.

Why write romance and romantic suspense? The combination can be fun. Just when things get slow in the romance, I can always have the suspense ratchet up because someone is either in danger or gets killed.  The same is true in suspense. When the heroine thinks all she has to do is solve the crime, suddenly some guy enters the picture and she has to deal with all these strange romantic feelings.  The treachery by an author never relents!  We love to torture our heroes and heroines and test them every way we can.  Shove a problem in their way and then let them get out!  So what do you need t know…

5 Tips to Creating Characters

Let's focus on Characters!  I absolutely love to create new characters. Creating them from scratch can seem like a daunting prospect, but you don't need to do all the work. Look around! Use what you know and who you know. This is your chance as a writer to make that boyfriend with the small irritations into a perfect man ready for love. Or you can make that awful boss over into the total idiot you think she is and next she is the one who gets killed or fired. All you have to do is exaggerate some of those terrible faults or correct the bad ones. 

Okay, that sounds like such a delightful exercise, but there are other things to consider as you go about making up new characters.  You want them to be lifelike, but what could be easier than looking around you.  Here are five tips for creating characters.

1. Use what or who you know. This is where that boyfriend or boss comes in.  Look at the people around you and by taking their worst or best attributes you can begin to frame a rea…

5 Tips to Writing Dialogue

Recently I was talking to someone who wanted to try her hand at writing fiction, but she feared having to write dialogue. She said she could write passages of character description and location easily and she could even come up with ideas for scenes. But she feared having to make the characters speak.  As we continued to talk I began to show her how she could approach the problem.
“Think about what we’re doing,” I told her. “We’re sitting here.We’re drinking a glass of wine, and we’re talking.”
“But how would I do dialogue?” she asked. “How can I put words in other character’ mouths?”
I am repeating this conversation because that was my first lesson to her as I began to consider how to show her how to write dialogue.
11. Learn the proper punctuation and how dialogue is written in a passage. That is a good part of what was bothering her. She wasn’t certain of the formatting, and as I showed how it was done, that took away some of her misgivings.
2    2. Listen to other people’s conversation…