Friday, March 14, 2014

Character Building

This Sunday our class will be talking about character building. This is a subject I have stressed for writers to do along with your outline. Writing a character outline is just as important to breathe life into your characters and to stick with what they would normally do when faced with certain issues, or climactic scenes.

Not only what they would do every time, but to show characters changing and maybe even growing as things happen to them.

Stevie, our main character, is a perfect example. She is a typical 18 yrs old, growing up in an American town. Yet she becomes into her own as a Guardian and leader of her people. What helps to change her and make her take on this responsibility?

There are certain steps to character development that will help you, but you also have to use your imagination and picture this character coming into their own.

With each character in your book, start with the basics - their height, hair color, age and who they are. After that these steps should help you to increase their personalities.

1. Personality traits. Does this person have certain quirks such as, twirl their hair, bite their nails, or like is Stevie's case, she goes into the bathroom and puts a hot cloth on the back of her neck to relax. Do they say certain things all the time, like Jack always says, "Whassup".

2. Who are they?  What is their job? What relationship do they have to the main character? Mother, father, best friend? How long have they known each other, in other words, build their relationship to each other.

3. The character's past. Do they have a degree? How long have they been a police officer? Have they been in jail? Did they do magic as a child but lost the ability? Painful experiences that shaped them into who they are. Not little details, but the important ones. Torren is a good example here. We showed the reader in Fated what he went through as a child to become the evil jerk he is today.

4. Strengths and weaknesses. What is it about them that makes them a leader, or a coward? Are they good with a sword or bow? Are they the best at figuring out strategy? Also, are they the worst at telling other's what to do? Are they followers instead of a leader? These characteristics comes from their past. They need to match with who they are today.

5. What is their goal. As you know who these characters are in your book, you can figure out what their ultimate goal is in the book. Stevie, our protagonist, is to become this Guardian for her people and to stop Torren and protect the Orbs that she is bound to by blood. Torren, our antagonist, his goal is to control all the Orbs so he can control both worlds. 

6. What makes them mature. this is a little harder, but think about the issues you've gone through and what they did you change you. After all, your characters are each a part of you. The protagonist is your "I want to be" character, and your antagonist is the one that is the "hurting" side of you. 

I know that's hard to believe when your writing a murder mystery, but we all have a good side and a dark side. But what truly causes a character to come into themselves? Is it mastering a feat? Is it a pressure filled scene that brings out their courage? Is it a near death experience of their own or someone they care about? That's how it is usually in life. They say until a drunk hits rock bottom they won't stop drinking. It's a good way to show a change in your character. 

As you develop your character(s) you can add to them and create a "whole" person. This helps when your writing them to stick to how they would handle a situation, or what they would say when an issue arises. You can ask yourself would my character really say that or would he walk away? 

You will find as your doing this the characters will come to life for you. Maybe even start talking to you and telling you what they will or won't do. You will begin to understand them and know them completely. It is much easier to develop your characters before you begin writing but not always easy to do. Sometimes you have to revert back to your outline and add things as you go along.

It might even change your story in your rewrite, but possibly for the better. By taking the time to know them completely will give your book the richness it needs and help your readers fall in love with them. 

What have you done in the past to know your characters? Do you list them or just write them as you go? Leave me a comment and fill me in!

Until next week, I hope all of you have a fun filled St. Patty's day weekend and I will see you next week!

Love, Lisa


  1. Hi Lisa, I'm really enjoying these mini classes. Thank you so much. I' basing my characters, on kids I ran around with, when I was a mere lad in New York. Is this a good idea? Your advice is always welcome. Are you an editor, or do you have someone I can contact regarding my novella? Keep these subjects coming. Blessings.

    1. Absolutely, a lot of author's base their characters on people they have known, but you still want to make sure to keep track of their personalities and goals so that you are consistent. Thanks for the post, you're always a support friend!

  2. Excellent guidelines. I tend not to write much about my characters, but I get my head into theirs and try to imagine their lives and histories. Like Johnny I will sometimes use somebody from my life as a model to start from and elaborate from there.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

    1. When writing a series like I am you have to keep track of everyone! Our list grows all the time! Good luck with keeping all the info in your head, it can still be hard to be always consistent. I do have a good memory, but not that good lol!

    2. Lisa,

      You've read my work so know where things are. I don't know if I'm being consistent with my characters or not. I think I am, but we all need that second set of eyes. Right? I probably base my characters on things going on in my life and friends. Thing aren't always rosy, so it makes it easier to write about murder and other events, similar to looking out the window at bad weather and being able to write a cold, snowy and desolate scene.

    3. Sunni, As Robin and I critique your book I will make sure that we look into your character voices and see if they are all different. She and I plan to get together this Sunday and work on your chapter 1 together. Since it's the most important chapter we want to make sure that it's good right out of the gate. You will be hearing from us soon! ;-)