Friday, May 11, 2012

Characters Make A Book

Black ink stains the side of your hand and leaves smudges along the paper you are filling with your creative genius. You have leaped over the hurdles of writing chapters one and two, accomplished the beginning of your story, and now you are working on chapters three and four.

By now you should know your main characters like you know your best friends. If you don’t, how do you expect your readers to know them?

Photo by Chrys Fey

More than anything readers want to identify with the characters in the book they are reading. They want to believe the characters are real even if they live on Mars, have magical powers, or are mythical creatures.

Think of Avatar. This is a movie where all the characters are blue and have tails but because they love, and have a strong sense of family and home, they are relatable.

Did you create a character profile (See: Bring Characters To Life) for all of your characters? Great! You are half-way there to developing realistic characters, but just as we are not simply defined by our appearance in the real world, don’t let your characters be either. Just because they are living in words on a piece of paper doesn’t mean they have to be one dimensional.

The first thing a reader learns about a character is their hair and eye color, but the further you write in your book, the more the character has to unravel for the reader. Think about your best friend. What makeshim/her unique from all the other people you know?

Now think about your main character:

* Would he/she prefer coffee or tea?

* Would he/she wear a leather jacket and scuffed boots, or a sweater and tennis shoes?

* What are their facial expressions/habits?

For instance, the main character in my book drinks gallons of black coffee, and wears jeans and leather boots. She squints her eyes when she is suspicious and grinds her teeth when she is angry. As for her habits, she loves to piss people off.

I just had to share the picture of me and Beetlejuice. He is a great example of a character that you just can't get out of your head and you want your readers to have your characters stuck in their heads too.

To make a reader feel as though the characters you conjured in your head are real, you have to believe it first. You also have to make them as complex as real-life people.

How your characters talk is also important. Unless you are writing a historical novel dated back during Shakespearean times, you don’t want your characters to talk in poetic riddles. Instead, have them talk as you would to your friends, but perhaps not as laidback. After all, dialogue is still writing. Be creative with your characters’ voices.

I have conversations with myself to write complex conversations between two of my characters where I play both sides to get their feelings and words right. Insane? Maybe, but I stand by that method. So next time you are alone and writing a conversation for your book, role-play aloud. Believe me it works!

TIP: If you need a name for a character and can’t think of a good one, go for a ride and take a look at the street signs you pass. You’ll be surprised at some of the names you’ll see that’ll make great character names. When I was younger, I used street names I passed on the school bus each day for quite a few characters in my original series.



  1. Great post! You've really helped me with creating my characters!

  2. Stephanie,

    I am glad to help!

    Chrys Fey

  3. I liked your post about character developement.

  4. Fabulous points. Characters are one vital ingredient. Well phrased. Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

  5. You're welcome! Thank you for visiting my blog!

  6. All your bullet ponds are fantastic. You really helped me develop the foundation of my story/series - great work! And Thanks for the tips


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