Creating Extraordinary Characters –– Part I

Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur

Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur

Starting a new series of blog posts on characterization this week. Why is it that some characters stick in our minds? What is it about them that causes us identify with them and admire them? I’ll be looking at these questions and others in this new series. Some say it’s all about plot. Others say it’s about character. Click to Tweet #amwriting #characters

I’ll be talking about some of my favorite and least favorite characters during this series, as examples of characterization. Let’s start with character basics.

You’ve got your fundamental story idea of what you want to happen. Now, you need to figure out who it will happen to.

bogieInitial Information

This goes without saying, but you need to determine whether your protagonist is male or female, age, living situation, occupation, relationships. Come up with a physical description, what color eyes, hair, body shape. Some writers visualize their characters as resembling an actor.

Three words

What three words best describe your character? Write them down, then brainstorm possible scenes for each word. Think of different situations where that descriptive word demonstrates that character trait. Expand on each one.

Character Interview

Ask questions of your character. This can be very helpful in revealing motives, goals, weaknesses, strengths, and other interesting information. Here’s a sample from my novel. I did a character interview with Meghan Gallagher.

Me: Tell about what you like, Meghan. What are you interested in? What do you enjoy doing? And what would you like to learn?

Meghan: I love reading books, especially novels. Currently, I’m reading Little Women, a recently published book. I enjoy writing short stories when I have time. I like teaching the young ones in Sunday school. What do I enjoy doing? I love being with friends, attending balls, and shopping for clothes and personal items. What would I like to learn? (She thinks a moment). First of all, I think I’d like to learn how to cook and bake. Olivia said she would teach me. If it weren’t for her, I would have probably gone back to St. Louis the day after I got here.

See how this can work? Knowing your character’s basic traits is a good beginning. Click to Tweet #amwriting #characters

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