Friday, November 16, 2012


This month from Writer's Digest Magazine:

"You must think up those plot events that will affect your character enough for them to react with genuine change." According to W. Somerset Maugham, that's the secret to writing. And while I happen to believe there are many secrets to writing, this one illustrates why I love some books. It's because the character changes in some way, usually for the better. I guess I like to think (hope) that we're all trying to evolve and so I root for those characters who are trying.

The other gem I found was this: "Always keep firmly in mind that people read any novel, no matter the genre, to find out what is going to happen to a fascinating set of characters. And no, throwing something like magic into an otherwise dull-as-dirt character won't make her fascinating. She needs to be a fascinating person on her own."

To make your character fascinating enough Writer's Digest suggests starting with a set of questions, some of which I've listed below. I do something similar, but more involved, beginning with a complete character sketch that covers my character's entire personal history. One of my favorite books on this particular aspect of writing is THE WEEKEND NOVELIST by Robert J. Ray. He makes sketching your character fun. Plus he outlines how to write a novel in a year while only writing on weekends.

After that, I use K.M. Weiland's CRAFTING UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS, which is free to download. That gets to the meat of your character, asking questions like how ordinary she is, what she collects, and what was the worst thing she ever did. I love this tool and K.M is awesome for offering it for free.   

Anyway. Here a few you might want to answer while writing your character's biography:

Birth Circumstances (that just brings forth all sorts of delicious ideas, doesn't it?)
Romance (secret crush? long time lover?)
Family/Friends (does she have any or is she a loner?)
Recurring dreams (I like this one because it's a good way to illustrate character AND let the reader know if the character is a little stressed without telling) Oh! Oh! I thought of one! It'll be about her family finding her or her finding them, a reunion of sorts - except of course she'll have no idea what they should look like or whether they want her back.

Care to share the answer to the above question for one of your characters?

Here are mine for Kai, the star of my new toy, which is still in development stages (and may never make it out - we'll see...).
1. she was bought in a market by Master Po, parentage unknown
2. none yet but she will...
3. No family, but she does have one friend, Jane
4. I haven't yet thought of a recurring dream but now that I've reminded myself I think I will :)

Your turn.


  1. Thanks for the reminder. I forgot to read the last issue of WD. I get the email version but didn't have time to read it when I got it. And then I forgot about it.

    I use a brilliant questionnaire that is on The Adventures of YA & Children's Publishing. I had the link on my blog last Friday.

  2. Haven't read either book, but I will look for them now. I always do a character sheet before I begin to write, and the main thing I want to know is that character's goals.

  3. K.M. is one of my writing heroes. I read her posts and am always in awe. She's real, and explains her techniques very well.

  4. Good stuff. It's so true, the most basic reason anyone reads is to find out what happens next. Love those kinds of character questions too. Every once in awhile I'll think up some weird question for my character and really ponder it as if she's real. Hmmm, maybe I've been in her head too long. :)

  5. This was a nice post about making our characters real. its very important that our readers can relate to them.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  6. That's pretty cool. I try this for Abigail in Neverlove:
    1. Nothing special, just born as the only girl to a very wealthy couple
    2. Not at first but Basil comes along to change that
    3. She starts off as the Goth girl loner, no friends
    4. As for recurring dreams, the sequel is something to watch out for regarding this

  7. Thanks Marcy,

    This is great. We all need to create INTRIGUING and unusual characters.

  8. Anything with a "Master Po" in it has got to be great as far as I'm concerned! Keep on developing those characters! :-)

  9. For some reason, I can never do character questionnaires. I guess my characters aren't real enough to me or something.

  10. Great information. This looks like fun, so I'll play along.

    Oceanna from 'Far Away Eyes'

    1. Born to a single mother. Father never mentioned. Raised by her mother and grandmother. One older brother, whose father died before he was born.

    2.None so far, but in the first few pages...look out.

    3.Family mentioned above. Three close girlfriends, but primarily involved with family.

    4. Recurring dream? oh yeah. She has a recurring nightmare involving her mother and grandmother which is the contains the answers to who she really is.

  11. Yours is the second post I've read today that mentioned "Crafting Unforgettable Characters." Hmmm, sounds like I need to download it. (Although that character checklist you sent me is already pretty doggone awesome.) Have a super weekend.

  12. Thank you I loved what you shared! Wow, I'm intrigued off to visit the link and go grab the book! :D


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