When people learn that I’m a writer, I’m often asked: “How do you create such interesting characters? Where do these people come from?”
I don’t necessarily “create” my characters. For me, it’s more like I’m meeting them, or “discovering” them and their stories. Many times, my characters show up and tell me about themselves. Other times, something I hear or see gets me thinking, and before I know it, a new character has emerged. (Shauna Farrow, the heroine from my historical romance, Dangerous Indenture was created after hearing the name “Shawna Farrell” in a bakery.)
The characters in a novel or a short story need to be so realistic that they could step off the page and function in the real world. As the author of your story, you need to know your characters better than anyone. (After all, they’re your inventions!)
Before you start writing, spend time thinking about your characters and learn everything you can about them. How do you do this? Create a character profile. Some of the most important details you need to know are:
- Full name, nicknames
- Hair and eye color/General build & body shape
- What job do they have? No job? High-paying job but hate it?
- Family life. Have siblings? Parents together or divorced? Raised by uncle? Are their relatives dead, alive, missing?
- What is his/her role in the story? What lessons do they need to learn?
- What do other people think of them?
- Strengths/weaknesses? Fears/Phobias?
- What secrets do they have? What would happen if people found out these secrets?
- Dreams, aspirations, goals, and regrets. Are they happy with their lives or do they wish they had done things differently?
The more you know about the characters in your story, the better the reader (and the other characters) will identify with them through personal details. These details can be used to move the plot along, add conflict, build dramatic tension, or liven up a love scene. For example, knowing your character has to overcome his fear of fire to save a child trapped in a burning barn will bring him to life. Although you need to know everything about each character, you don’t have to use all of it in the book. In fact, too much character information can be worse than not enough. Unless it’s crucial to the story, readers don’t need to know that Marc was kicked off the football team in high school because he flunked math. But if your serial killer is stalking old high school teachers or enemies, then it would be worth mentioning, maybe as a flashback. Every character should be a three-dimensional person, not a flat, stereotypical cardboard cutout who lives a perfect life. They need to be fleshed out enough so they have quirks, hobbies, goals, and dreams that take them beyond the current situations they’re in during the story. Give your characters unique personalities and interesting habits to make them stand out. Maybe the heroine loves heavy metal music and the hero rescues kittens, or does something else that goes against the reader’s expectations. I like to take bits and pieces of traits, likes, and dislikes I see in strangers, friends, or whoever, and mix and match them into a character. In order to make your characters believable, step into their world and look around. Notice the details of their living room, car, bedroom, anywhere they go about their day. Pay attention to what they wear, how they act, and what makes them tick. All these details will add a level of depth to your characters and the story. Be sure your characters have a past, a present, and a future. After all, they didn’t “show up” on page one; they had a life before the story started. Dig deep into their pasts and make them realistic. You can draw on past events to influence their present and develop their future. Remember to give your heroes and heroines flaws. “Too-perfect” characters are boring. Maybe your romantic hero has trust issues, self-esteem problems, or he feels like a phony. A hero cop could be plagued by nightmares of not being able to stop a shooting, he feels guilty about an unsolved murder case, or he drinks too much. I hope you enjoyed this look at how to create interesting characters. If you want to learn more about the writing process, check out my online writing courses on Teachable:
My latest historical romance, Love, Lies and Redemption is filled with unique characters—from the headstrong heroine to the troubled hero, and a quirky group of townspeople—this western romance set in 1877 Nebraska blends a sensual love story with mystery and danger.
Love, Lies and Redemption Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox. Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost. As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature, but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head. They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past? Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store, but find their efforts are thwarted — and their lives endangered — by the locals. Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth? Cassie has everything invested in the store — can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?
Order your copy here: Amazon
All other platforms HERE
Remember, when you’re writing a story, you can invent anything you want—so have fun and let your imagination run wild. Happy Reading & Writing! Kelli A. Wilkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20 romance novels, 6 non-fiction books, and 2 online writing courses. Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories. In January 2020, Kelli published Love, Lies & Redemption, a western romance set in 1877 Nebraska. This novel blends a sensual love story with mystery and danger. She released Romance Every Weekend: 104 Fun Ways to Express Your Love, a non-fiction guide to romance in November 2019. The book features 104 fun and easy ways you can express your love to that special someone in your life. Perfect for men or women, it focuses on tender, everyday gestures that let your partner know how much you love him or her. Kelli published Extraterrestrial Encounters, a collection of 18 sci-fi stories, in August 2019. If you like horror fiction, don’t miss her disturbing novella, Nightmare in the North. Earlier in 2019 she released The Viking’s Witch, a paranormal/historical romance, and Dangerous Indenture, a historical mystery romance set in Colonial Pennsylvania. Kelli has authored two online writing courses: Fiction Basics: Finding Ideas and Fiction Writing for Beginners. These courses are perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to write.