Characters: Understand Your Character

At the beginning of this month, we thought about how much writers should know about the characters they have created and some ways in which writers can get to know their characters better. Today, I want to take this one step further by discussing how writers can understand their characters in order to both connect emotionally with them and develop them into more striking and memorable characters.

We have been thinking about our characters this month. So far, as well as their basic characteristics, we have thought about getting to know our characters, how we can maintain stability when writing about our characters (which gets harder the more characters you have), and how we can create distinct, individual characters within the same piece of writing. Now let’s think about understanding our characters.

Knowing your character may help you to write about them better, but it may not be enough for you to see the world around them as they experiences it, from their point of view. You may need to go deeper than this to know what your character is thinking, and how (or even whether) they can justify their own, or someone else’s, actions. You may not agree with how they look at the world, but you as the author should still be able to see how they reach the conclusions that they reach.

Understanding is a step beyond knowing. The writer has to put themselves into the mindset of their character – who may be a wildly different person. How can this be done?

  • Begin with the basics. Think about what you would do in the situation that your characters is in. Then, think about how you might react if you had the history or a prominent personality point of your characters. Why do you think you would react in this way? Why is it similar or different to your own reaction?

  • Go through your character’s thoughts one at a time so you can examine each logical or illogical step in their thought process.

  • If you have any similar experiences to your character, use them. If you know anyone who has been though a similar experience and is comfortable talking about it, then discuss it with them to try to understand what they went though and how they felt. Alternatively, look for documentaries or interviews on radio, television, and the internet.

  • If you are lucky enough to get the opportunity, put yourself in that position to experience it first-hand. You can do this as a mock-up or a real life situation.

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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