February 03, 2012

Bring Characters To Life!

NOTE: This post has been revised slightly since publication. Images and formatting have been updated.

We don’t just read books for the plots but for the characters. We are following their lives, listening to their conversations, and even intruding on their most intimate moments. We befriend them and sympathize with what they are going through. Sometimes we laugh with them or we cry with them. Every now and then, we even fear for them. That is why you must treat the characters in your book as though they are real people in your life. (If they live in your head, they are as good as real.)

When you have a story idea, the next step is to build your characters. All of the characters in your book need personalities and quirks. Is one of your characters sweet and shy, or mean and dangerous? Bring it out in your writing. For example, a shy character can blush fuchsia, and a mean character can grind his teeth in aggravation.

I gave the butt-kicking female protagonist in my unpublished series many of my personality traits like my “god-like” anger and lack of patience, especially when she’s trying to catch a criminal. Could you give your main character a few of your charming (or less than charming) traits?

Your characters also need appearances. After all, you are creating people. Give them hair/eye colors and body structures, but be creative when you are describing them in your book and let your creativity for words shine. Don’t just give a character green eyes and blonde hair. Instead, say they have green eyes the color of fresh cut grass and 24-karat gold hair. (Of course, not everyone writes like this, and you don’t have to if that’s not your style.)

Project: Grab a few sheets of paper and a pen. At the top of the paper, write the character’s name and make a profile for him/her like so:


            Hair color:

            Eye color:

            Body Type:



Add any other relevant information, but don’t forget to have fun!

Other details you may want to consider when you’re creating your characters are their pasts. Does the past influence the story you are telling? Do your characters have fears and/or weaknesses that can come into play in your book? What are their flaws? You can't create perfect characters, because we are, after all, not perfect.

You also need to figure out your characters are going to do. What is their purpose? Their purpose can be as simple as being comedic relief to being the villain. I have a character in my series whose purpose is to be funny, witty, and sexy. But she also has an important role as the medical examiner.

QUESTION: Obviously, the characters we create are our personal favorites, but is there a character from a book (that is not your own) who you absolutely love?

I loved (and sympathized with) Melanie from Stephanie Meyer’s adult novel The Host.


  1. I have to say, I love the pictures you used for this blog! And the project you described sounds like an easy way to create characters. I am definitely going to use it!

    I don't really have a favorite character from any books I've read, but that just makes me want to create awesome characters in my own novel! ;)

  2. Love your selfie! You can use that for next Halloween.
    I still need to read Hurricane Crimes, I've been to busy.
    I love SAMUEL McCORD in Roland D. Yeomans books.

    1. I just realized you're sharing your older post!

    2. Sorry, David. Didn't mean to trick you! I shared my two older character posts because the information can be useful anytime. Plus, I hadn't shared them since I got Google+.

      I haven't read any of Roland's books yet, but I have to now! ;)

    3. I'm easily distracted! I blame my ADHD, my wife tells me I just don't pay attention.

    4. Distractions can sometimes be good. ;)