23 January 2014 - CREATING A CHARACTER


G'day guys,

I have had quite a few posts about characters, but let's face it, they are absolutely vital for any story. Here are some ideas for those of you wondering about your characters, courtesy of Paris Franz.

"After a hiatus that was rather longer than planned, I am getting back into writing my book with unusual enthusiasm (I have to make the most of this mood while it lasts), and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the writing process along the way.

I’m hoping this will keep me accountable, and I’ll actually get the thing finished, but that’s a whole other blog post.

I’ll start with characters. Characters are, it seems to me, at the heart of story-telling.

How to create a character is a huge topic, and it can seem overwhelming. You need characters readers love, loathe, sympathise with and root for; in short, you need the reader to care what happens to the people in your story. They don’t necessarily have to like your characters, but they do have to want to know what happens to them next. Well-rounded, three-dimensional characters will carry your plot and draw readers in by the scruff of the neck, but creating them is no easy task. There’s a lot of work involved in creating characters your readers will remember.

As with any big, daunting task, break the creation of characters down into smaller, manageable tasks. Start with the more straightforward elements, such as showing your character doing something.

Take the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark – Indiana Jones doesn’t say much, but he does a helluva lot. He’s trekking through the jungle, negotiating all manner of traps; he’s forging ahead while  his companions take fright and flee; he looks highly pleased when he finds the treasure; he runs like hell from a giant boulder intent on squashing him; he escapes from irate natives, and he has something of a freak-out at the snake in his friend’s plane.


In addition to telling us all we need to know about the genre of the story, the sequence tells us a lot about Indy. He’s an adventurer, a treasure-seeker; he’s resourceful and smart; he has a sense of humour; he’s determined to survive. And he really doesn’t like snakes. Not only do we have a good idea of who he is, we’ve also been given plot points which will pay off later in the story.

“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”

Showing your character in action – a classic instance of the Show, Don’t Tell maxim – is probably the most straightforward element of building your character, aside from detailing the more obvious physical characteristics (which is an approach that can so easily go wrong, but I’ll get into that at another time). If your character is cutting hair, he’s likely a hairdresser; if she is shown stealing something, she’s probably a thief. Show your protagonist in action, and you’ve made a great start in building that character.

But remember it’s only the start. Actions may speak louder than words, but they can also deceive, which leads us to the topic of motive."

Clancy's comment: Thanks, Paris. Hope this has helped some of you writers.

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