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Creating Characters in Novels

One of the funnest and most challenging thing for me as a writer is bringing my characters to life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, seriously. I thought the hardest part of writing would be keeping the plot going, or making sure there was a good balance of action and explanation, that I kept the story flowing all the way to the end.

But, noooooooooooooooo. Giving all my characters life was the most challenging.

But I had a little help, and I wish I could remember where I found this little tidbit of advice. I have tried doing Google searches but can’t find the document I found years ago. So I will just tell you what the website said 🙂

The exercise called for writing down10 things that you think are fantastic about yourself, and 10 embarrassing things about yourself. ***gulp*** Talk about hideous and painful! You have to accurately describe yourself and describe wonderful moments and painful moments. The last was a list of things that you are passionate about.

Now, the point isn’t to make a character that has all of those qualities, but rather to realize that people are not one dimensional. Heroes are not full of good qualities and bad guys full of bad ones. People are a mixture of both good AND bad, and THIS is what is going to give your characters depth and realism so that the reader can relate to them.

The point is to also not use the exact qualities you possess and give these same traits to your characters. But you can use similar flaws and faults, or positive qualities and use the same emotions that are associated. For example, one of my nervous tics is to pick at the dry skin around my fingernails. It got worse when I quit smoking but I have always done that. I do it a LOT when I am nervous or when I am thinking hard about something. One of my characters, Keera Flint, has a similar tic: she is constantly chewing a piece of her gorgeous red hair when she is nervous. So while I didn’t have her pick at her fingers, the things that lead to these behaviors is the same.

But there is a little piece of me in all of my characters, which also makes it hard when bad things happen to them 😉 I also use personality traits from other people I know, although some of the time, I exaggerate a little.

For you writers: do you tend to infuse your own personality onto your characters or do you tend to give them traits of other people you know?

And for readers: do you feel a connection to the author when you really connect to a character, and make you feel as though you know them better?

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One Comment on “Creating Characters in Novels”

  1. Ruth Fanshaw July 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    I never base characters on real people. To me personally, that just doesn’t seem sporting, somehow! 😀 But I do draw on my experience of life, and that has to include what I’ve observed in others and in myself. 🙂

    I definitely agree about there being a little piece of the writer in all his/her characters. But I really try to write characters with their own world view, not just mine. Because if all my characters think the way I do – well, the world just isn’t LIKE that. I think that’s the hardest part: writing characters who DON’T behave and think and speak as I would in that situation.

    And as a reader – yes, it’s important to me to feel a connection with the writer; to feel that we’re somehow on the same “wavelength”. And I guess that does generally happen through the characters they write. 🙂

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