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Creating Credible Characters Refresher

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The thing that led me into writing was the constant flow of ideas for characters that was (and is) always running through my head. But having an idea for a character is one thing; creating characters that are credible, that readers will connect with and remember after they finish reading the book, takes lots of work. So here’s a refresher on the Creating Credible Characters series. (There’s a discussion question at the end of this post.)

Creating Credible Characters (June 2007). See also Be Your Own Casting Director, Point of View
Creating Credible Characters—Introduction

    “…When it comes to my own writing, choosing a favorite character is equally if not more difficult. The hero of whatever story I’m writing at the time is my favorite ever as I, along with the heroine, fall deeper in love with him as the story unfolds. …”

Creating Credible Characters—Where Do Characters Come From?

    “…Answering the question, ‘Where do characters come from?’ is very much like answering the baby question. There’s the stork-like answer we give to non-writing friends and then there’s the full disclosure we discuss amongst fellow writers. There are no storks here (well, maybe just one). …”

Creating Credible Characters–Who Are You?

    “…One of the worst things we can do in our writing is not develop our characters well. This comes either from a lack of knowledge of how to do it or not spending enough time getting to know the characters at a deeper level. …”

Creating Credible Characters–Culture Clash

    “…As humans, we are most comfortable around ‘our own kind.’ This can be taken to extremes (the holocaust, slavery, ethnic cleansing), but it is something that is hard-wired into our psyches. When we are forced into situations (or choose to go into them) where we are the lone ‘one of our kind’ amongst a vast array of ‘otherness,’ this is when our true character comes to the forefront. It can be something as simple as starting a new job where everyone else is more experienced than I am, or as extreme as going to a foreign country where I do not speak the language and look physically different from everyone surrounding me. How I act/react in these situations are the truest test of my character. …”

Creating Credible Characters–Let’s Get Personal

    “…This is where knowing a little about psychology helps. You’ve answered the interview questions, filled out the character profile worksheets. Now it’s time to go back and look at the answers and act like a four year old and ask one of two questions: ‘Why?’ or ‘So what?’ …”

Creating Credible Characters–Mannerisms and Quirks

    “…The level of quirkiness Johnny Depp brought to that character [of Captain Jack Sparrow] most likely would not translate well to the written page. It works fine in the movies because they are physical gags that we quickly interpret visually and understand. But if you tried to describe his facial expressions, it would take too many words and would slow the pace of the story too much. Our characters’ mannerisms and quirks will arise out of who they are—so as you go through the personalization process with them, be looking for things that can become something unique to help define your character for the reader. …”

Creating Credible Characters–What Do You Want?

    “…Before you can develop that conflict, you have to delve into what each character’s desire is. We have a tendency to define characters as ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’ but when we start developing real, multi-dimensional characters, we have to move beyond these epithets into the knowledge that no one is ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ (unless, of course, you’re writing fantasy or allegory with ‘evil’ characters such as Sarumon and Orcs). …”

Creating Credible Characters–What’s in a Name?

    “…Sometimes, we name our characters one thing and halfway through our novels, they stop, throw a temper tantrum and refuse to cooperate until we change their names to something else. Or sometimes we try to change the name when we think it doesn’t fit any longer, and then the character refuses to cooperate any longer—stops talking to us or doing anything he should—until we go back to the original name. …”

For Discussion:
This is actually a two-parter.
A. Who’s your favorite fictional character (only one) from a book, movie, or television show. Why?

B. Who’s your favorite character you’ve ever created? Why?

  1. Tuesday, February 17, 2009 8:42 am

    Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Because he’s SOOOO complex. You never know which side of him is going to win out–the snobbish side, or the side that lookings to be understood and loved.

    As for my most favourite character that I’ve written. I’d have to say Curtis Livingston from my first novel which I’m still tweaking nearly six years later, though his character has remained consistent throughout the rewrites. Why? Because he’s strong, level-headed, a little daring, and willing to admit to his fears within reason. It takes a special someone to help him overcome his greatest fear, though. Got to love a man who does have some needs.


  2. Tuesday, February 17, 2009 11:31 am

    My favorite character… would be Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail. Meg Ryan played her so well! She was sweet, quirky, innocent (except for the whole living with a guy thing), loved kids and loved daisies.

    My favorite character from MY books is… wow, that’s hard. I get in my character’s heads so much I feel like I’ll hurt their feelings if I don’t pick them!

    I’m gonna have to go with Paige though. (Sorry Jenny, you know I love you!) Paige is hilariously funny, lives life on the edge, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’s fun, quirky, and has a HUGE heart. She’s going through a rough patch right now, but she’ll come out all right in the end, and dad gum it she’s hilarious while she’s trying to deal.


  3. Lori Cagle permalink
    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 1:21 pm

    My favorite character froma book is Pippi Longstocking. She is adventurous, brave, and sees the world as she wants it to be rather than the way it actually is.

    Created character? I have only ever really created one. Her name is Alexis and her traits are simialr, in that she sees the world as it could be not as it actually is. She is a lot braver too.


  4. Tuesday, February 17, 2009 5:53 pm

    Banky from Chasing Amy. I’m not going elaborate on that because I’d be quite surprised if any of you have seen, given the R rating and blunt sex talk, but he’s hilarious.

    Of mine, maybe Pamela from The Intruder because she’s one of the few characters I’ve made that doesn’t particularly remind me of anyone I know. All the others, it’s usually pretty easy for me to tell where I drew a lot of their character traits from.


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