Wednesday, 4 September 2013


This post was inspired by another terrific blogger +Jennifer Ricketts .  I read her post and got thinking about how writers often struggle with character development because it really is the most important aspect of writing a book.  It's a writer's biggest challenge to create unique characters that take on a life of their own and infiltrate the reader's life so completely that saying goodbye at the end of the book is worse than a teen breakup! Memorable characters often stay in the reader's mind forever, conjured up again when someone else reads the book and reminds them.

So how do writers come up with characters?  Here's a few ideas on that:

  • the writer often uses aspects of their own character or the person they'd secretly like to be 
  • the writer takes aspects of people they know (friends and particularly family) and combines quirks, habits, physical attributes into a composite character. (Beware friends/relatives of authors.  You could become part of a fictitious character!)
  • Another technique is to google pictures of people you think look interesting or who seem to "speak to you".  Print their pictures, create character profiles for them, make a diagram that links them together in unusual ways.  They'll soon start telling you their stories and maybe (in some cases) you'll really fall for them!
  • Use lists of questions to develop you character.  They're all over the net - like this one.  Click here
  • the writer actively watches real people in real situations.  Listens to them speak, watches them interact, observes their physical attributes and keeps notes in a journal.  Like a character bank. I've done this in a coffee shop.  Watched as different people entered and made notes about them. Created imaginary lives.  Here's an example of one of my musings:
When the first man walks into Starbucks and stands by the cobalt blue sofa, I see the moon shift in the sky. A swish of rainy night traffic blows into the room, and the air crackles with static.  
 His grey corduroy pants are flecked with black paint.  His fingers are tapered – long, bony and dusted with freckles, fingernails are edged in charcoal.  An artist’s hands.  Wheaty, billowing waves of hair- curl onto his shoulders – like a platinum halo under halogen lights.  
            When the girl at the counter leans forward to hear his order, her cheeks flush flamingo pink.  She has piercings in her eyebrows and silver rings glint along the curve of one ear.  I touch my nose and wonder how a small diamond stud would look above the flare of my nostrils.
            He takes a small espresso – to go - black, a dash of sugar, toys with a cellophane wrapped biscotti, lingers - returns it to the plate.  A strand of hair tickles the corner of his mouth as he hands a small, white card to the barista.
            I look away. He goes.   
.            I’m on espresso number three when the man in a charcoal suit enters.  He wears a white gardenia in his lapel and I nickname him the prince of darkness.  I picture him at a walnut conference table speaking with flat detachment about war, invasion and gun prices.  His toupee gleams too black – like vinyl hair – a plastic man who smells of eucalyptus and tastes of gin.  As he leaves, the hem of his coat brushes my hand, a door slams and darkness slides in like a silent viper.
            Loneliness is its venom.
Hey - maybe I have the beginnings of a thriller here.  Watch out for it!