Characters: Know Your Character

The most memorable characters in fiction are memorable because they are well-written, well-designed, and distinct. Character building may seem like a simple task at first. When you were young, you probably just threw your characters together (I know I did) with a physical description, a name, and a jumble of characteristics familiar to you or that you admired. Perhaps your characters were based on someone you knew – or even yourself. Of course, creating and developing characters involves much more than this and will very probably involve personalities or traits that you know next to nothing about.

We are thinking about characters this month. It is a very interesting subject, because writers constantly need to be able to create new characters or develop their existing ones. I have so far discussed the basic characteristics that we need to remember to include for our readers. Today, we are going to think about how much we should know about our own characters.

The short answer is a lot. Some people might say everything, but at the very minimum you should know more about your important characters than your readers will learn (or discover directly) through your writing. Take Albus Dumbledore, for instance: J K Rowling never inserted the fact that he was homosexual into the Harry Potter books, but she knew that he was anyway. In the same sense, you as an author should be aware of things about your characters that your readers may never come to know about them. This will help you to build a more rounded and realistic character.

This is not a fast process. While you can stockpile characters, names, backgrounds, personalities, and the like, the right character has to fit with the right plot. You should spend time designing, building and rebuilding your characters in order to bring them to life.

In this sense, you should not merely know the “hidden facts” about your character, but also how they would react to certain events and what makes them tick. In short, you, as the creator of this character, should take the time to get to know them on an intimate level. Here are some ideas that could help you to do this, a few of which I have already mentioned:

  • Write 10 facts about your character that nobody else will know.

  • Write about something that would make your character cry.

  • Write about your character’s faith, belief in the supernatural, or lack of these.

  • Write about something something your character would be willing to die for.

  • Write about what your character would do if they were lost in the desert. Would they survive?

  • Write down your character’s favourite food, drink, song, place, etc. (you may get a chance to slip these things into your writing)

What do you do to create interesting and memorable characters?

This month’s theme is CHARACTERS. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of characters, then please post a link in the comments or email me on with the subject: Characters.

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