Friday Forum: Character Creation

As I mentioned in my last post, my characters stopped playing with one another nicely recently. It took a little time for me to stop being so stubborn (I prefer “resolute,” thank you) and examine why it was happening. My hero jumped into the spotlight and showed of facets of his personality I’d not seen before. Oh! Our heroine said, so eloquently, as one by one they took center stage. The impact on the plot has been astonishing. Just as the characters are stronger and more interesting, the story itself has fleshed out marvelously.

How well do you know your characters, dear Reader? Here are five links that may help you improve your relationship with them:

The Character Wall: This is a great way to start organizing and exploring your characters. Let it inspire you to create your own format. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have a whole wall to devote to the project. Instead, I used index cards. A photo album might work, too.

Creating Characters that Jump off the Page: Take a look at this terrific piece on character creation. It’s a good, methodical approach to building a character you know well.

Developing Realistic Characters: I like this article for two reasons. It describes a good way to go about the initial steps for defining a character. It is also a good introduction to the concept of Character Interviews. Remember when interviewing to ask really off-the-wall questions, too. Try not to feel silly doing this. You might be surprised at how well you get to know you characters.

Character Traits – I Like Junk Food and Gin, and I Stutter: Details are important when creating good characters. This popular piece describes how to flesh out your character in ways you may not have considered.

Imperfections As Perfections: Here’s a short but inspiring perspective on character flaws. Don’t just focus on your character’s strengths. He needs to be three dimensional or he’ll be a snorefest.

Warning: Don’t be surprised if getting to know your characters better forces you to reconsider the novel you’ve already plotted and outlined! Be open to the new perspectives and you may end up with a stronger storyline than you had planned.


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12 thoughts on “Friday Forum: Character Creation

  1. Rob Charron July 4, 2009 at 12:29 am Reply

    Hi 🙂
    Thank you very much for sharing. Those are very useful & helpful tips.
    It’ll help, I’m sure.
    Love From Canada


    • Jessica Rosen July 4, 2009 at 4:10 am Reply

      Thanks, Rob. I hope you do find them helpful. If so, please do come back and leave a comment about how you used them. I look forward to seeing how they worked for you.

      Always a pleasure,
      Jessica Rosen


  2. Violet Hilton July 4, 2009 at 3:36 am Reply

    Great links, Jess, thank you! I really like the idea of the character wall. I’ve got a big blank wall just above/behind my desk that would be perfect for such a thing. I normally keep character info in a little journal I take with me everywhere (you never know when or where inspiration will strike!). Might help to see the sheets while writing though 🙂


    • Jessica Rosen July 4, 2009 at 4:08 am Reply

      I use something similar to the journal, Violet, although that’s a great idea! I was really wanting to learn to consolidate info, though. I found a loosely bound set of index cards with tabbed files. Really handy for my purposes and like you, I carry it wherever I go. Inspiration likes to hit when you’re away from the WIP, doesn’t it?

      Have fun with the character wall,
      Jessica Rosen


  3. Webdesigner2 July 4, 2009 at 4:51 am Reply

    I remember writing classes in College and when I was in HighSchool. And you helped refresh those memories. I remember that words should be visual, TASTE GOOD. lol

    Like he was so mad. But what is Mad. Describing him as being mad.

    His face was twisted like a pretzel, his fist were bald and loud noises were coming from his nose >>>> doesnt have to be exactly like that BUT to me thats MAD.

    So, thank you for helping me to remember how important those lessons were, and I will surely come back to read your words of wisdom because I see you have some great looking links !

    & plus I think ur words taste good lol


    • Jessica Rosen July 4, 2009 at 7:59 am Reply

      What a gorgeous way to put it – words should taste good! As a former musician, I’ve always had an ear for the rhythm of words. I enjoy them as individuals and how well they play with one another. Some words are lovely for how delightful they feel in the mouth or how fun they are to say aloud. I now see that those are the ones that taste good.

      Thanks for the kind words,
      Jessica Rosen


    • Jodi Cleghorn July 6, 2009 at 11:16 pm Reply

      I’m going to hang a little mantra above where I write – or a post it note on my computer – words need to taste good too. Thanks for that lovely insight/reminder.


  4. Alexis Grant July 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm Reply

    Glad you visited my blog because your comment led me to yours! Looks like some good stuff here. I’m going to keep reading! Oh, and I post a list of links on Fridays, too, called Writers’ Roundup. Looking forward to yours!


    • Jessica Rosen July 10, 2009 at 2:59 am Reply

      Terrific to see you here, Alexis. Thanks for the kind words. I’ll take a look at Writer’s Roundup tomorrow. Bound to be useful and interesting!

      Take care,
      Jessica Rosen


  5. Jodi Cleghorn July 6, 2009 at 11:12 pm Reply

    Creating three dimensional characters can be a challenge. Thanks for the links! I wrote my column last week at Write Anything about the “fish out of water” exercise inspired by an interview I saw with playwrite Edward Albee. A way of getting to know your character by putting them in a scene which they would never normally appear it.

    I like to pause and actually listen to my character and allow them a chance to reveal themselves. I am currently working with a character called Dirk Hartog who is only allowing me to see tiny snippets of him and working with him on his terms – rather than trying to force to door open entirely to see what is behind.

    But I come from the school of thought that characters choose us and we need to ask them the right questions to get to know them better. Sort of like an interview or a casual chat!


    • Jessica Rosen July 10, 2009 at 3:05 am Reply

      Oh yes, I do believe that characters choose us to some extent as well. It’s why I think we have to do everything we can to get to know them – even if that means accepting that they wont let us know them well straight away. Interviews are all well and good for most, but as you pointed out, sometimes they just won’t play along. Which, let’s face it, is a big part of their characters.

      Never do I go through a novel without having a character or three pop out with things I never expected them to say or do. Makes the story richer every time. Secondary characters who do this are delightful surprises!

      Thanks for that link,
      Jessica Rosen


  6. […] Friday Forum: Character Creation Jessica Rosen has started a new focused link love forum. Should be good. “Each week, the Friday Forum will focus on a certain subject links to do with writing and/or publishing. I’ll do some research and show you what I’ve kept for my own use as helpful”.” […]


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