Writing Tip Wednesday–Creating Characters


Today we tackle the last of the BIG FIVE–creating characters.

There are books out there dedicated to the topic. So obviously I can’t do the topic justice in one short blog, and I’m not going to even try. But what I will do is tell you a bit about the process I use to develop my characters. But I’ve got a secret when it comes to creating great characters.

As a pantser, meaning I write by the seat of my pants instead of an outline, I don’t know much about my character when I first start writing. Sometimes I don’t even know their name!  I learn about the character as I write the first draft of my story. The first draft is always about the plot but the characters become more clearly defined as well.

For example in the story I’m writing now, one of the characters is an ex-FBI agent turned preacher. Yesterday as I was washing dishes, I was thinking about him and why he won’t be open to a romance with the other character. When you have romantic suspense, there always needs to be a subplot why the characters can’t be together at the beginning of the story.

Then it hit me–his wife was killed because of a case he was working on for the FBI. Now I didn’t know any of that before that very second. I didn’t know he was married. I didn’t know about the tragedy of his wife. I didn’t know why he gave up being an FBI agent.

Now I do, so as I go back to revise and edit as well as finish the story, that bit of information will add a new layer of depth to that character plus set up the reason why he doesn’t want to get romantically involved with the other main character.

So where do I get my characters? I admit that I might borrow a few characteristics from people I know or have known now and then. Sometimes they may be a composite of several different people. Other times, they may simply be created from my imagination.

OK, here comes my secret strategy for creating great characters. are you ready? I believe the key to creating a believable and memorable character is that they must be real to the writer. That means they aren’t characters in a  book, they’re people–at least in my mind! Characters in a book are two-dimensional. The people I create in my mind are not!

If you asked me about a character from one of my past books, I could probably give you an update on their current  life right now. That’s how real the characters in my books are to me.

And that is what will make them real to your readers as well!

So, you writers out there, do you have any tricks of the trade you want to share about creating characters? Or tell us about one of your favorite characters.


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