Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Building a Story: Character

As I work out ideas for a new novel, thoughts about the characters emerge fairly early in the process. I don’t usually create detailed character charts or summaries. I find I don’t know enough about the character—or even what characters will be in the story— until I get into writing it. But as I read more about plot, I’m getting a better picture of what I really need to know about the characters to make the story work. Some recent advice that is shaping how I think about my new characters:

Creating Two-Word Characters, Guest post by Nick Thacker at K.M. Weiland’s Wordplay. 
I like this idea, because it gives a quick “tag” for thinking about the character and keeping in mind a key trait as I’m working with them for the story. It also forces me to think about what the most important thing is about each character that I want readers to know.
Quote from the post:  “The Two-Word approach lets me hone in on the two most important, overarching qualities of my characters that will truly bring them to life for my readers.”

From the Intern: Reasons Editors Pass (Part 3) by Nicole Steinhaus on YA Stands.
This is such a useful post to review if you’re working on developing a character. I’ve read a lot of middle grade books where there are evil villains because kids can relate to it easily. But I think there’s still room for “layers of gray” and characters that are a little more complicated and less clear cut. For example, I’m sure “mean popular girl” has feelings too.

Quote from the post:  “See what types of characters are out there. Then do something different.”

Agent Jill Corcoran on “What Makes a Book Sell” offers important advice about thinking about the “whys” for including each character in the story. 
I often automatically include a friend for my main character because friends are so important for middle grade readers, but this post reminded me that every character needs to have role in moving the story forward. The friend character can’t just be there to showcase some quality of the main character.
Quote from the post: “Be absolutely mindful of every character you put in the book.”

 What have you learned recently about creating characters?


  1. Thanks for the tips Andrea. I don't write detailed worksheets either. I used to make my characters too perfect. I've learned the hard way that they need flaws and that things can't come too easily for them. Good luck with your new project.

  2. This is a very timely post as I'm examining why my MC isn't working for me. I need to go back and fix him. First I think I will follow all these links! Thanks, Andrea!

  3. Thanks for posting these links! I think the post is very helpful. So much to think about when it comes to character development and including characters. Best of luck with your MS. :)

  4. Thanks for the links. Jill's post sounds familiar to me, so I must have read it too. I tend to write out as much as I can about my characters, especially my main characters, flaw and all. Even if it doesn't go into the novel, at least I can get a full picture in my head of him/her.


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