Every Writer’s Dream — Understanding Our Characters

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So true. 🙂

Two weeks ago I began writing my next WIP. It’s book two in my historical Highlander Heat line, and I’m reminded as my characters’ personalities build, of how important it is to understand them, to get down to the nitty-gritty and make them real.

We need to have a good grasp of who they are and what makes them tick. They must be unique, which means we need to take care not to typecast them. With this typecasting, I’m referring to giving our characters labels such as “the bad boy,” the “misfit,” or the “cheerleader.” Do you see where I’m heading?

Readers are clever, and they quickly pick up on characters who represent a common character cliché. That can bore the reader. It can also cause the reader to turn from them because the character just doesn’t feel real.

Our characters also shouldn’t be too perfect, too weak, too beautiful, or too much of any one thing. As writers we have to get inside our characters’ heads and humanize them.

A great way to do this is to interview them. Yep, that’s right. Here’s what I do. Once I’m a chapter or two into their story, at the point where I have a good grasp of each of my main characters, I write down their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately what drives them. Their faults and fears have usually popped up by now and become glaringly obvious. Those are key, because as they say, conflict+conflict=story.

I love their faults and fears. Those issues allow my characters to become authentic, and it’s my job to throw challenges at them which will test those weaknesses and allow them to grow. There is nothing better than having our reader become invested in our characters, for them to cheer them on as they work at resolving their issues. Just remember to keep your characters’ plight and their scenes real.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and that you’ve come away with some helpful hints. I know for myself, if my story isn’t moving forward the way it should, it’s usually because I don’t have enough understanding about my characters. I love those interviews. Give it a go if you haven’t tried it before.

Don’t forget to drop me a comment if you’d like to. My post always goes live on a Monday afternoon Down Under in New Zealand, and when I wake up on a Tuesday morning the first thing I do is read all your messages. I truly love hearing from you guys. You all make my Tuesday mornings shine, so don’t be afraid to say hi.

Stay safe. I’ll catch ya later.

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8 thoughts on “Every Writer’s Dream — Understanding Our Characters

  1. I do the same thing. I write a list of characteristics as I’m writing the story, mostly to keep them straight in my head so I don’t have my tough guy acting like the soft hearted sweet one (unless something happened to make him sweet of course!) Great post.

  2. I’m actually one of those people that doesn’t interview their characters. I can’t. It has ruined stories for me, and I’m not sure why. I have to do it the long, hard, difficult way and just write out a lot of stories in order to get to know the character through that, when really, I only use half, to a third, of what I write for the actual story itself.

  3. Great post, Joanne!! Digging into character GMCs is a must and as frustrating as it is fun sometimes, lol. I have an awesome set of worksheets I fill out as I write and my characters reveal themselves to me.

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