Developing Your Story
Part One: Creating Your Characters
How can you write a story without
characters. Your story plot is one thing. But your characters
can either make or break your story. Stale characters make stale
stories. Boring characters, make for boring stories.
Hopefully we can remedy that. I've compiled a nice little section
on how to create vivid, believable characters.
I. Character Development
1. Take a person you know
2. Write down the way you think of that person
3. Then write the character
From a list chart
1. Answer the following questions
f. Character flaws
g. Habitual mannerisms
j. Taste in sexual partners
Creating a character to suit the action
1. People are what they do
a. If someone is going to kill
1.) Needs to be someone to have the means
3.) A role in life that places him/her next to the victim
II. The three types of characters
1. Has the problem to solve
2. Generally wants something
3. Tries to do something
4. There is only one main character
1. Other important characters
2. Vital to story
3. Along for the ride, but solve their own problems along the way
4. Generally people close to your main character
Minor and bit characters
1. Minor characters
a. Generally have names
b. Reader learns a little bit about them, but not much
c. Villians are often minor characters
2. Bit characters
a. Aren't really characters at all
b. Generally do their thing then leave
Some General Pointers On Character
How To Make
Your Characters Function
should have a set of walls
Know the boundaries
of those characters
Cannot have your
character react outside of those walls (out of character)
The hero cannot
gun or harm an innocent person
Once a character
is established, once the wall are up, you can't just walk through them
must respond in character
Test your character's
ability. Take it the limit, but not beyond.
If you start a
situation, you should employ characters of appropriate dimension.
or break or story.
Actions of your
characters convey your story.
don't offended your readers.
A good characterization
is to establish for the reader the relationship among the characters.
are not as important as personality traits.
Your Character's Identity
Creating characters out of thin air
is an undaunting task. I generally watch people in public places
like malls or parks. Use people you know in your lives and mold them
into your characters. Take a characteristic traits from your friends
or family and put them together to create a character. Keep it original.
Make your characters interesting and believable. People are impressed that
I can create characters out of the thin air. But I take a lot from
just watching people.
Characters' identity? Names? Ages? Nationalities?
What do the characters look like?
What is their background? Family? Education?
Put your characters in a setting.
What do you characters think about?
How do they behave, move respond?
How do others react to what your characters
say or do?
What is their most unusual characteristic?
What are their ambitions and emotions?
What events in their lives motive them?
Some things to look for:
All these things make your character.
They aren't all details that need to be known to your reader, but they
provide traits that make your characters react to situations placed in
front of them. Provides limits to solve their conflict.
How do people talk
How do they walk
Do they use their hands when they talk
Do they have a lisp
Do they stutter
Do they walk with a limp
What is their hair color
Are they skinny
Are they overweight
Do they walk with confidence
Do they talk to themselves when they
For my WGIA novels, my main character
Stefanie is Jewish. While that isn't a trait, it's a religion but
it provides obstacles because of it. She has to deal with prejudices.
The fact that she is a woman only enhances the problem to succeed.
She always feels she has to prove something because she is Jewish and a
woman in a male dominated workplace.
* Author's Note: WGIA is a fictious
German Intelligence Agency that I created for my series of novels and screenplays.
None of my work has (or unlikely to be) been published...so don't ask me
about it. <G>
The Character Sketch
Huh? Focus? What
is Zeus' name is FOCUS all about?
A single focus on the character
Details about the character that help
the reader understand the focus
Character actions that help the reader
understand the focus
Character conversations that help the
reader understand the focus
Direct or indirect descriptions of the
How did I know you were going to
ask that. List your characteristics of your main character that make
him or her interesting or unusual. From this list, choose ONE idea of which
you think you can build a character sketch on.
Still confused about this FOCUS thing?
I am to. Just go with it. It's my impression that you take a single
trait and build on that.
Stefanie is a Jewish woman from Munich, Germany. I use the
fact that is Jewish to show what type of problems she has to deal with.
Not only does she live and work in a country that executed millions of
her people, she has to contend with anti-semtic culture that still resides
in Germany among many of the citizens. Her being Jewish makes her
react to certain situations differently than what her Christian counterparts
I built the character of Stefanie off the fact she is Jewish.
That is what focus means in my opinion.
(How about that for example...)
Also, one more thing -- Don't tell your reader about the character,
show the reader.
Making Your Characters Talk
Dialogue is important. (I didn't need to tell you that did I?)
Writing dialogue is sometimes trying. Write as you talk. Try not
to use complicated words (the kind that will make the reader search for
the nearest dictionary).
Listen to Your Characters
Show the speaker's exact words by enclosing them in quotation marks.
Include spelling clues to indicate the type of dialect or speech patterns
used by the characters.
Produce natural sounding conversations by using short sentences and contractions,
as appropriate to the character.
You can include fragmented sentences to illustrate a speaker's exact words
to enhance a style.
Use phrases like, "he yelled" or "she snarled" to allow readers to "hear"
the words in context of the situation.
Use correct puncuation. Including: commas, end marks, and apostrophes as
well as quotation marks.
MAKE SURE YOU START A NEW PARAGRAPH WHEN A NEW SPEAKER STARTS. (I can't
stress this part enough -- this is MAJOR rule of grammar).
Include descriptions of not just of voice and expression but also of mannerisms
and other non-verbal means of communication.
Watching Your Characters
What is the person's usual vocabulary? Does word choice suggest education
or lack of it? Are certain words or phrases often repeated (like, "you
know" or "um...").
Are the sentences short and choppy or moderately long? Does the person
answer "Yep" instead of "Yes, I think so..."?
What type of voice does the speaker usually use? Does he/she shout, whisper,
rasp, hiss or whine?
Does the character occasionally use poor grammar?
Does the person drop word endings? Instead of saying, "Walking along" they
go "Walking' along".
Does pronunciation reflect a dialect, words like "cain't" or "musta".
Watch your characters... Notice how they walk, move about, run...
How does a character stand or sit? Does he/she slouch or lean on a cane,
prop chin in hands? How else can you describe posture?
What does the character do with his or hands? (Think clean thoughts people!)
Does he jab the air with a pipe-filled fist; does she unceasingly rub her
thumbs together, worry with her wedding ring?
How can you describe the person's eyes? Are they clear or cloudy, sparkling
or dull? Do they peirce the listener or wanderer off into an undefined
What visual evidence is there of facial reaction to comments? A frown,
a fading dimple,a grin, a cocked head, a dropped jaw?
What visual evidence is there of other physical reactions to comments?
A shifting of position, crossing of legs, folding of the arms, leaning
This should about cover it for character development. Make your
characters interesting. Make them fun. Make your villians the baddest,
meanest people around. Make your hero have that fatal flaw.
Make your hero's sidekick or partner ask a lot of questions... yadda...
Please do not post this document on another website without
my permission thanks.
This page was created on May 12, 1999.
This page was last updated on: May 25, 1999
Contact the webmaster
Dolphin Web Designs
Jennifer L. Zellers
Copyright © 1999
All Rights Reserved