Monday, 12 September 2011

Do You Know Enough About Your Characters?

To make our stories believable, we need good character development, and apart from knowing what motivates them, we should know more about them than we ever tell our readers, we need to be aware of every little thing they do.

A physical description helps us to see how they move through the world, and allows the reader to believe in them. Even their name provides a lot of information, indicating age, background and social class.

Who else is in your characters life? Who do they interact with? How do they interact? Personality is often determined by background. What sort of parents they had can play a big part in how they shape up in life.

I'm always asking myself what my character wants from the situation, or the scene they're in, its important to know how your characters will behave. Creating a well rounded character takes time. Not only what they look like, and where they live, but how they  will react to the situations they find themselves in.

How do you create your characters? Do you start with a picture? Or an object, and think who might have owned it, worn it, played with it? Perhaps you make a character study?  Or do you develop them as you go along, without doing any planning in advance? How do you create an intriguing and credible character?


  1. I've got characters I know stupidly well, but that's because I roleplay them constantly. So when they end up in novels; they're pretty well rounded and real.
    Its the characters that don't come from roleplays that I have to think about more, because I haven't spent as much time in their heads.
    Standing in the woods or sitting around the table being that character for a few hours or even for a whole weekend does wonders for knowing how they think and feel! :D

  2. I start with a picture, develop background, develop race, family, and religion...and go from there.

  3. I go on "feeling", the predominant emotion I feel when I think like my character. Then I tend to listen to the types of music that evoke that emotion to help me when I'm stuck in my writing. I need to consider "reactions" more. I think I should take some time to jot down random situations and how my character(s) would react. Great post! Christy

  4. I do all of them. The best thing I do is keep a journal of my main characters' thoughts as the story goes along.

  5. I like to draw up a character study, but it isn't too unusual when some character will up and change in the middle of things and I go, "huh!" and it seems that this character knows himself better than I do and I just let him/her go with it. I love that part of writing.

  6. Great post Maria. I like the idea of starting with an object; that is new to me. I usually begin with a characters emotions and memories, but it takes me a long time to really get to know a character.

  7. lleandra - Role play sounds like a good idea, I can see why that would work.

    Michael - This works for me too.

    Christy - I'm getting into listening to music as I write, and yes, it does bring out character emotion.

    Richard - I've not tried a journal, its an interesting idea. I'm tempted.

    Lorelei - This also happens to me, in my current WIP, one character is competing for the star role. I may have to kill him off! Or the story will change dramatically. Then, maybe I should let it...

    jrl3d - Starting with an object can be fun. Like a shoe or a locket,or a mobile phone even. Think about who owns it? How do they look,and dress? How old are they? What do they do for a living? Etc...and before long I'm writing away, and a whole new person has evolved.

  8. Good post. I sometimes interview my characters. I posted up a list of questions you could ask your character on my blog. It was some time last year, I think. I know someone who always asks their character where they keep their clean socks!

  9. Rosalind - Interviewing characters sounds like a fun way of getting to know them.

  10. I don't have a specific way of creating characters. At least not yet. I'm still learning! The major project I started last year began in first-person POV with my main character. When it goes through its first rewrite it is definitely switching to third person, but I'm really glad I decided to start in first-person originally. I don't do well with those checksheets for characters that list likes, fears, favorite color, etc. Whenever I do that I end up with a character that feels...flat. So I just start writing and figure out their voice along the way. So far, it's been a good tactic for me. I doubt this is the way I'll always go about it though.

    By the way, I'm part of your urban fantasy group. I'm sorry it took me so long to drop in and say hello!

  11. quidforquill - Interesting points you make, I'm also known for just writing, and filling in the details afterwards. Its interesting to hear how everyone does it their own way.

    Thanks for visiting, hope to hear more from you soon.


I really appreciate you taking the time to leave me a comment, and I try to reply to every one. Many thanks!

Planning Your Time - How Hard Can it Be?

Blue Skies Over Tenby - Maria A Smith  Planning your time is often much harder than you ever dreamt or expected it to be, and if you do...