Advice From The Archives: Creating Characters

We’re talking characters today! This post is from the 2010 New Voices competition. Enjoy!

Creating Characters Readers Will Fall in Love With

Having strong and believable characters in your novel is a must – it’s the best way to gain your readers’ sympathy and keep their interest. More than an exciting plot, clever twist or an exotic location, characters are the reason why we read romantic fiction.

  • Take inspiration from the world around you. People you know or have known might provide some ideas for interesting personality traits (though only use for inspiration!!). Or you might like to base physical characteristics on someone who caught your eye on the bus, a cute guy who serves your morning coffee… dream a little!
  • Keep an eye on the news. You’ll often find intriguing characters to inspire you in newspapers, magazines or on the TV. This helps keep your ideas up-to-date.
  • Create character profiles or biographies. It’s also a good idea to find photos from magazines that you feel most resemble your characters. This might help bring them to life, especially if you’re a very visual person.
  • Ask questions like: “What do they want?”; “What are they afraid of?”; “What is the worst and best thing that could happen to them?” All this preparation will help make your characters three-dimensional.
  • Try to write one single defining sentence about your main characters. This is a difficult but useful task, which helps you to focus on your characters.
  • The most important things to know about your characters are the issues that will drive the story forward. You need to know your characters’ goals.
  • And remember to avoid character stereotypes – they might be humorous, but they’re dull and can feel like plot devices. The blonde “other-woman” might just have had her day!
  • The Heroine: She must be someone likeable, someone your readers can identify with. But that doesn’t mean she has to be perfect! We all have flaws and like reading about people who do too.
  • The Hero: He must be desirable, someone your readers can fall in love with, someone who is so real he almost steps off the page.
  • Have fun! You get to create new and exciting people to take on an interesting journey – and these characters will be with you for a long time – so enjoy the ride!

Some writers like to write mini-bios for their characters, this certainly doesn’t work for everyone – but it might for you…

Character Check List:

Physical Characteristics
Name; age; date of birth; birthplace; height; weight; body type; skin type; hair; eyes;
nose; mouth; clothes; style. 

Personality Profile
Strengths; weaknesses; ambitions; beliefs; self-perception; how others see him/her; hobbies; moral values; eccentricities; fears; most defining characteristic.

Current Situation
Marital status; occupation; where they live; food and drink preferences; car; pets.

Birthplace; childhood; educational background; former partners. Present problem; how the problem gets worse; how the problem gets resolved.

Mother; father; children; siblings; friends; colleagues.

Happy writing!