Tag Archives: characters

Authors Answer 138 – Developing Characters

Characters are central to a story. They need to be well-developed and believable to be considered good characters in a serious story. It’s important to make sure their behaviour is consistent. We’re going back to basics this month, talking about the development of stories. This week, it’s characters.

Question 138 – How do you develop the characters of your stories?

H. Anthe Davis

Jeez, I don’t know… I’m five books into a series, so at this point when I introduce a new character, I usually I have a vague idea of what I need from them (antagonist or ally? from which faction? which gender, which skills?), and then I spin details off of that base, trying not to duplicate traits from other characters. Then I write them into scenes with other established characters and figure out how they interact, and either expand upon them if it’s an interesting dynamic, or keep them sidelined/backgrounded if that’s all they’re good for. As for my main characters… Hell, I don’t know that either, since I first made some of them over twenty years ago. I guess it’s just basic traits + personal quirks + character interactions + developing history and psychology as I go along, until they start to feel like real people.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

To be honest, I base most of my characters on real people I know, and sometimes on TV/movie characters that I’ve watched for years and feel I know practically as well as a real person in my life. From there I base the progression of the characters on how I imagine their real-life counterpart would actually react to the situations I come up with for them. Obviously it’s all conjecture, as I couldn’t possibly know how anyone would actually react to something like zombies or being transported to an alternate universe, but it helps me develop my characters by picturing the events happening in real life and running with how my imagination views things playing out among the people involved.

Jean Davis

As a tried and true pantser, I start writing a male or female of whatever age is fitting to the story and figure out who they are along the way. I like to get to know them in context rather than on a character sheet beforehand. Though, I did try that once. It was too restrictive. I ended up picking a couple characteristics from the whole sheet and just running with that. He became a pretty cool and loyal supporting character.

Beth Aman

In my opinion, characters are composed of details. So I build characters by assembling details, sometimes from my imagination and sometimes from real people (generally strangers, not friends). Every human is a jigsaw of details – nervous habits, catch-phrases, dressing choices, speech patterns, favorite books, topics they talk about again and again, etc. My favorite characters are the ones that feel like real people because they have things that make them them. So that’s what I strive to do with my own characters.

C E Aylett

Research. Lots of it. I research where they come from, read blogs if I can find them of where they live or grew up to find local knowledge and build a picture from there. I also use character questionnaires to really dig deeper. There’s other tricks, too, but those are the main ones.

Paul B. Spence

My characters grow organically. Main characters get backstories written before I begin. Others get what I come up with on the fly. It is usually just a matter of asking who is right to see this story through, and going from there.

D. T. Nova

Not very deliberately. The original concept can be sparked from anywhere, and once a character exists in my head they have a life of their own. Characters created for one simple reason turn out to have depths I didn’t know, or adopt attributes that I had thought belong to someone else. I run scenarios through my head and pay attention to what never changes, and that includes situations I don’t have a reason to write.

Linda G. Hill

My characters often come to me. In my recent release, The Magician’s Curse, a ghost showed up at the door. I have no idea where she came from, but she told me who she was, and ended up being a favourite of some of my beta readers. It’s like that for just about every main or secondary character in my stories. Sometimes they’re inspired by an accent (Stewie’s, from Family Guy for example), sometimes a speech pattern (don’t got no example for that), and sometimes it’s a physical trait in someone I’ve seen in real life. In my current work-in-progress I have a character with a nose so sharp it could cut a cheesecake. I saw him at the mall and thought that immediately.

Cyrus Keith

I’ll be honest, I start with a vague, general sketch, and let the characters just kind of develop themselves as the story progresses. Sometimes, I’ll get a “whoa, that’s awesome!” kind of revelation halfway through, and then I have to go all the way back to the beginning of the story and edit those qualities in. That way, the story and the characters grow together. Besides, I’m way too lazy to generate complex character tables.

Gregory S. Close

I create a thorough backstory for all of my major characters, and try to get at least the basics in for supporting characters. Then, as the story unfolds, the characters reveal interesting bits about themselves that I incorporate into the narrative. Sometimes little of the original background remains, sometimes a lot. The important thing is to be true to the “voice” of the character – don’t try to force it.

Jay Dee Archer

I get pretty detailed about my characters before I even start writing. The main characters all get a biography. Not only do I write out their life history, I make note of their appearance, personality, major life milestones, age, birthplace, political stance, hobbies, strengths, weaknesses, and more. For dialogue, I want to make sure I have their mannerisms down. This needs to be consistent. They need to sound like they’re all different characters. That’s a major problem for some authors. They create characters that all sound the same. For minor characters, they’re developed as I write, mostly. But sometimes, for both major and minor characters, they take on a life of their own. They go a little different direction that I first intended, but this usually works out and makes them more realistic.

How about you?

If you’re an author, how do you develop your characters? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 116 – Writing the Opposite Sex

Authors need to write from many different points of view. Men, women, children, and even animals or other non-human characters. It makes sense that a male author can write a male character more easily, and likewise, a female author can write a female character. But what about writing the opposite sex?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 116: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Beth Aman

Hmm, I’m not sure. I haven’t done it much, partially because I don’t want to get it wrong. But it’s something I’m trying out in my new WIP so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

Cyrus Keith

The first thing is to remember that although there are differences, they aren’t as drastic as you might think. Not all women are crazy about pink. Not all of them are aware of the way they walk, and all women are NOT damsels in distress. The same way as all mean are NOT born mechanics or knuckle-dragging troglodytes who only care about sex and beer.

The hard part is writing not through your filter of how you see them, but as they are, as real people. Humans.

This is when the writer becomes a researcher. Sit in the mall and just observe how men and women, boys and girls, interact. And I mean SEE it. How do they walk together? What do they do with their hands? How do they hold their bags? Where do they focus their eyes? What do they talk about? Look for the ones away from the crowds. Are they pensive? Sad? Happy? What makes them look that way?

I’m sure there’s a second thing, but I’m not sure what it is.

H. Anthe Davis

I don’t think I have problems anymore, since I’ve been writing men for ages and ages.  In fact, I had more problems with writing women, initially, than I ever did with writing men.  I read a lot of male-centered fantasy during my formative years — adventures like the Elric books, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books, Vlad Taltos, the Amber series, Belgariad, Chronicles of Thomas Covenant — where almost all of the female characters were on the sidelines or obnoxious.  It took me ages to learn to write female characters that felt like human beings, instead of girlfriends or obstacles or tropes — female characters who reminded me of myself and my friends.  My biggest problem is still writing romantic relationships, but I have that issue on both sides of the gender fence.

Paul B. Spence

I’m not sure. I don’t seem to have a problem with it. I write people. People are usually not defined by their sex or gender. Sometimes they are, but not usually. Culture is much more important. It defines gender roles. I have degrees in anthropology, the study of humans. Take a few classes, learn about the people you are writing about. If you can’t afford classes, then read Marvin Harris. I would start with Pigs, Cows, Wars, and Witches, then move on to Our Kind. Trust me, it will change your view of the world.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I haven’t written much from a male perspective, aside from a few drabbles and very short stories, but I’m currently working on a project that would be a full-length novel from the view of a male character, and honestly, I don’t find it all that difficult. Perhaps I’ll get torn apart by readers who tell me that I’ve got no grasp on how a man actually thinks, but I personally feel that I’m doing okay, and that if I gave a chapter to someone without them knowing I wrote it, they wouldn’t be able to tell whether the author is male or female. If I ever get around to finishing it and publishing it, you can all tell me whether or not I did well. XD

Gregory S. Close

Whenever you write from any unfamiliar perspective, be it race, gender, religion etc. then you have the challenge of presenting something that is fundamentally alien to you in a way that it seems second-nature.  I want to make sure I do everyone justice without too much pandering or cliche.  Beta readers are really important for this, I think.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I actually don’t have a problem with writing male characters. If anything, I have more trouble writing women. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a house full of guys and with few feminine influences. When it comes to women, I think I have trouble with striking a balance between creating a realistic woman and avoiding stereotypes. Thankfully it’s 2017, and the line between masculine and feminine things is becoming all the more blurred.

Jean Davis

I like writing both sexes so I guess my biggest challenge would be the proper word choice and phrasing. We speak and think differently so my brain is hardwired one way and it takes thought to make the opposite sex sound natural.

Linda G. Hill

I actually prefer writing from a man’s point of view. I’ve never been much of a girly-girl myself, and I’ve had very few female friends in my life. If there is one difficulty I face, it would have to be the obvious. Luckily I have a man as my best friend, with whom I can discuss the body parts I lack… like a beard. Get your mind out of the gutter! 😉

D. T. Nova

Honestly I think I’m better at writing female characters than male ones.

One exception would be writing heterosexual romance from the female character’s perspective.

C E Aylett

It definitely depends on the type of person they are, more than the gender. I don’t buy into the idea that because someone is of a different gender they are more difficult to write — we’re all human, we’re all emotional entities. I look for writing about a human before a gender. Our common ground — emotion, motivation, fear, desire — transcends gender.

I recently read on Quora some answers regarding this very question and someone even ventured to state their idea of the differences between men and women, one difference being that men are not emotional beings and women are. This, of course, is not true, but more to the point, I think that as a writer this is a highly dangerous approach to take. If you write characters from the point of view that they must fit into our preconceived ideas of gender you run a high risk of sounding like a sexist (both ways) or, at minimum, writing to flimsy and outdated stereotypes. That can come across as lazy characterising.

In my first novel I found it more difficult to write the female lead than the male one, even though I am female, because firstly she was American and the male lead was British. Plus, she was into basketball and I hate sports (except for pool, if that even counts), so I had to do a lot of research that I didn’t really enjoy and only used about a third of it anyway! The novel series I’m starting to revise this year will have a football fan in it (that’s soccer to our US readers), so I will have to research that. Luckily my partner is a fan so I can tap him for info. That’s the hardest part — giving them character traits of stuff I’m not particularly interested in. But the world is made up of all sorts and you can’t ignore that just because it doesn’t suit. And especially not in this case where the football fan side is actually a small yet deeply significant part of the setting and politics.

It probably also helps that I have a lot of brothers and hung around a lot with the lads when I was younger, Well, still do! So I just write how my mates talk and act. I’ve also met enough wrong-uns in my life that the more villainous characters don’t feel like a chore, either, just natural.

Eric Wood

The hardest thing for me is hearing their voices. What does she sound like? What would she say?

Jay Dee Archer

My current work in progress features a girl as the main character in her teens. But she’s from a different time and far different circumstances than anyone has ever experienced. I think that makes her easier for me to write. However, for the average female character, what’s difficult for me is writing dialogue between her and other female characters when men aren’t around. I generally don’t get to hear those conversations, other than what’s on TV or movies, but they’re completely scripted.

However, I think that because both men and women have so many variations in personality, there isn’t a typical female or male character, so however I write that person, that’s the way they are. If someone said that’s not how a woman behaves, I’d just say that’s how she does.

How about you?

If you write, what do you find difficult about writing the opposite sex? Let us know in the comments section.

Authors Answer 112 – Characters Celebrating Christmas

It’s almost Christmas now, which means it’s time for the annual Christmas question. The authors love presents, but what about the characters? They should be able to receive presents, right? But what if they’re in fantasy or science fiction, where they may not have Christmas? Let’s find out!

2002_Blue_Room_Christmas_treeQuestion 112: It’s almost Christmas. What would a main character of one your works like for Christmas?

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Nancy – from “Nowhere to Hide” – would probably like a few new weapons, maybe some new clothes, a hot shower…oh, and definitely as large a supply of non-perishable food items as Santa can fit in his sack.

Gregory S. Close

Osrith Turlun, former Captal of House Vae, soldier, duelist, sometime criminal, mercenary and generally grumpy man-at-arms, would like a new knitting needle.  He just broke one off in someone’s skull where last I left him in the writing of End of Dreams.  Knitting is his happy place.  Or, at least, his more-centered grumpy place.

Cyrus Keith

A new SIG Model P220 with custom grips and an extended magazine.

Paul B. Spence

I don’t think they celebrate Christmas in their society. Some of the secondary characters, maybe… I’m not sure. Peace on Earth seems a strange thing to ask for since they are at war with Earth at the moment…

Elizabeth Rhodes

Let’s talk Dex from Jasper. He’d probably bypass his own gift and wish for something to give to his daughter Natalie. She’s terminally ill and still a child, and he’d like to get her some makeup or a big book to read. The idea here is to make her feel like an adult for a little while.

Jean Davis

Vayen of The Narvan series would like a whole day where no one is trying to kill him. If Santa could arrange that, he would be most appreciative, because he’s sure not getting that from me.

Eric Wood

Basing it on the short stories I’ve written, I’d have to go with little Timothy from Barnaby’s Toothbrush. He’s a curious, creative five year old. He would love something that would allow him to fully employ his imagination. Books. Art sets. Play-Doh. His mom would like a leash so he won’t wander off.

D. T. Nova

I tried to think of what would be both something the character wants for reasons beyond just “they would like to have it” and something that would actually be given as a gift, and can’t think of a perfect answer.

However, I think Alice would have somewhat personal reasons for wanting a Weissritter model to go with the Alteisen she got for her birthday.

Beth Aman

The main character of my High-Fantasy would love a new knife.  Or five.  The main character of my Contemporary would kill for leather-bound editions of Lord of the Rings.  I personally would love with either of those gifts.

C E Aylett

A great big rave up! Huge warehouse party, glow sticks, tinsel, house music and tekno. Fairy wings. The lot.

H. Anthe Davis

Shaidaxi Enkhaelen would like some specimens of our local variety of ‘human’, in either living or cadaver form — whatever would cause less complaint — because he finds it both curious and bizarre that we’re all descended from one specific form of mammal life, instead of having multiple lines of descent from multiple creatures that crossbreed with spirit assistance.  He thinks we sound terribly boring but that we might be more interesting on the inside.  Any volunteers?

Jay Dee Archer

The colony of Ariadne doesn’t have the same calendar as Earth does, so figuring out when Christmas happens would be difficult. However, there are still people who celebrate Christmas, or something similar. Solona Knight, the main character of my first Ariadne novel, is a teenager, but she has a strong interest in magic. She may appreciate a copy of the classic fantasy series Harry Potter. It’s a couple centuries old, but she may enjoy old Earth fantasy literature.

How about you?

For those of you who are authors, what would your main character like for Christmas? If you don’t write, what would your favourite character want for Christmas? Let us know in the comments below.

Authors Answer 111 – Killing Off Main Characters

Sometimes, main characters die. While reading, maybe your favourite character dies. Doesn’t feel good, does it? Do you go into mourning? Do you cry? But what if the author is killing the main character? How do they feel?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 111: How do you (or would you) feel when you kill a main character?

H. Anthe Davis

First, I laugh maniacally.  Second, I think of how my beta readers (and then my actual readers) will take it.  Then I laugh maniacally again, while trying to figure out how best to defend myself from irate friends/coworkers/fans.  …Seriously, I kill a lot of characters.

C E Aylett

Well, that depends on who the main character is. If you mean a protag, I don’t think I’ve ever killed one yet. A main character that isn’t a protag, yes, I have. Love killing off the villains — but that’s because they are so horrible! I really make them deserve it. There’s definitely a lot of ‘Take that you F**ker!’ when I’m writing those scenes. Ahem.

Beth Aman

I’ve only killed one main character so far, and it was fantastic.  Her death is a very emotional moment for the other characters, and I loved playing with words and feelings and denial and darkness.  The scene makes me cry whenever I read it.  Emotionally-charged scenes are just cool to write, so I enjoyed it.  A lot.

D. T. Nova

Tense, no matter what. I can’t stay relaxed when I know I’m about to write a death.

I have characters that I know I couldn’t kill off without feeling sad and probably a little guilty.

Eric Wood

I’m as emotionally stoic as my character. Only once did I write I write a story where I killed a character. Since I knew the outcome, I wrote the story accordingly to get that point of death. I felt as cold-hearted as the character who was to blame because I knew I was out to kill. Please don’t contact the FBI.

Jean Davis

Killing someone I’ve spent a lot of time with and formed an attachment to isn’t exactly fun. It can be emotionally exhausting to write. I recently killed a secondary character I’ve been writing for many years and two books. It was hard to write but I hope his death was worth it for the series as a whole.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I don’t usually feel hurt about it, as cold as that sounds. I worry more about getting the death right and making it meaningful. I doubt want to give the impression that I’m killing characters for the sake of being edgy, but I want it known that important people will have to die in the right circumstances.

Paul B. Spence

Ask Shadovsky. It feels like killing a part of myself. I have done it, will do it if the story calls for it, but I don’t like it when a main character dies for no good reason. I’ve thrown books across the room when reading for far less.

Cyrus Keith

I mourn. Honestly. I get attached to my main characters, and when I have to kill one, it’s like I’m losing a friend. I was so down after losing one in particular, I was down for two weeks.

Gregory S. Close

It feels terrible.  I wrote all of In Siege of Daylight without even admitting to myself which characters were likely to die, because I didn’t want to unconsciously telegraph my knowledge of their impending demise in the writing – and then I ended up killing even more just because that’s where the story led.

One minor character in particular met a brutal and sudden fate that I didn’t see coming.  I had plans for that character!  Interactions in my head!  A life planned!  And that’s why it felt more real.  If you only kill the obvious redshirts, then the death loses significance to the author and the reader.  Feeling terrible about it helps make it more genuine.  Maybe even more so than the demise of main characters, whose fates are largely bigger than life and tied into grander things.  It still feels terrible to kill a main character, but maybe the blow is softened a bit by its deeper connection to the narrative.

Hmmm.  I guess that makes the author Fate.  When I’ve fated a main character to die because of the PLOT, I have time to come to terms with it.  It’s written in the stars.  When I allow it to happen in the evolution of a scene, that’s more akin to happenstance.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

It depends on the character, for sure. I’ve killed off characters that didn’t affect me in the slightest – it just felt like an obvious  part of the story that needed to occur. On the other hand, I’ve killed off characters (or planned to kill of characters) that I’d gotten extremely attached to and it felt like a huge punch in the gut to do it. I like writing dramatic stuff, but sometimes a character starts to feel like a real person, and in those cases it can be extremely difficult to go through with a death.

Jay Dee Archer

If it’s a character I love, I’d probably feel awful about it. But on the other hand, I’d be curious about how my readers would react to it. IF it’s a character I hate, I’d probably feel wonderful and have a lot of fun writing the scene. There is a character I’m killing off soon in what I’m writing, and although he is a main character, his death is an important moment that will affect the direction of the story and the attitudes of the other characters. But how do I feel about it? I’m very curious about reactions. I don’t hate the character. I’d just always planned to have him die, so I’ve been trying not to become attached to him.

How about you?

If you’re an author, how do you feel when you kill off a main character? If you’re a reader, how do you feel when a main character is killed? Let us know in the comments below.

Intriguing Villain Adventure

Just a few minutes ago, I was asked an interesting question on my 200 Subscriber Q & A video:

If you had to pick 2 bookish villains to go on a road trip together, who would you pick and what would the title of their adventures be?

My answer, copied directly from the comments section is this:

Interesting question. I think I’d like Darken Rahl from Wizard’s First Rule and Saruman from Lord of the Rings to go on a road trip together. They’re both completely merciless and without any moral compass. So, their adventure would be called “Path to Conquest Without a Compass.”

Best I could do in 2 minutes 🙂

Maybe not the best answer, but I really only did think about it for a couple minutes. So, I’d like you to answer the same question in the comments section below. Let’s see who has the most interesting idea.

Evolving Characters of A Game of Thrones

Looking back at the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, which of course is known as A Game of Thrones, I have to say that my opinion of characters has changed over the books. I’ve read the first three books so far, and I have developed different favourites by the time the third book ended.

Looking at the Starks, I haven’t really changed my opinion about anyone. However, I still strongly like Anya Stark and Jon Snow. I never really liked Robb Stark, and my least favourite of the kids was and still is Sansa. My opinion of Catelyn fluctuated between like and dislike, but ended up with mild dislike.

The Lannisters have been an interesting group. Joffrey Barratheon has always been a little ass, and I never liked him. Never liked Cersei. But Jaime and Tyrion have changed. In the beginning, I really liked Tyrion, but my like for him has faded a bit. At first, I hated Jaime. He was one of my most disliked characters. However, I actually like him now.

A lot can change over George R. R. Martin’s books. Earlier today, I posted a video review of A Game of Thrones, looking at how my opinion has changed or not changed about the book.

Has your opinion of the characters changed? Let me know in the comments below without giving me any spoilers.

Authors Answer 3 in Video Form!

Earlier today, I edited together my answer to Authors Answer 3. And my answer has changed from the original! The question was: How difficult do you find it to write characters who have vastly different beliefs than you? Take a look.

What do you think about my answer? Do you agree? How do you feel about writing characters of different beliefs than you?