Creating real characters

I just had to redo my villains in my story. They were simply too…flat. There was nothing to them. No back story, no depth and worse, no reason for doing what they were doing.

Since I was redoing them, I thought, heck and I started to redo two other villains as well. To do it, I sat and thought: Okay, so this guy is a jerk. He hurts women. Why does he do it? How does he justify it? And how is he hurting in his life (so that he’s not a simply evil man without any redeeming qualities)?

I basically wrote a backstory to them. One was abused as a child, one had tried to avoid the pain he felt living with his alcoholic family of origin by choosing a doing a job he hated and now, with four kids, he was trapped in doing something he disliked every day.

These weren’t main characters in my story. They were in only two or three scenes in the entire thing. Still, once I know them well, I can write them in so much better. Their dialogue comes alive and they develop quirks and mannerisms that suit their personality.

They come alive in the story because they’re alive for me.

But let’s face it, I’m no Nora Roberts. What do I know?

Well, these people know. Check out this little group of links on how to write great characters. Hopefully, one will suit your style!

Elizabeth S. Craig has this great post on Help with Character Development. In it she has a ton of other links to help out with everything from worksheets to examples. An excellent post and one with many possibilities.

Janice Hardy has this post with a list for an antagonist and this one for a protagonist! Absolutely awesome posts.

And this one is for supporting characters! Let’s not forget those. A great post by Nancy Parker.

11 thoughts on “Creating real characters

  1. I am finding my short story characters fairly flat, especially since I don’t tell anything from his POV. Trying to work on it, but the shortness of the story isn’t helping me.

  2. I also know the backstory of virtually all characters in my story. Many of them are not strictly necessary, but it kind of just builds up naturally. At least I feel a need to always understand their actions and I create their past to explain the present and/or future.

    At the moment I’m struggling a bit with deciding how vicious my villains should be. This might be one of my story’s weaknesses; that the bad guys are not quite…bad enough. At least not all of them.

    • Ah…It’s hard if you like them. I know when I felt sorry for mine I didn’t make them bad enough and I didn’t let bad things happen to them (If they were the hero) and it wasn’t good for the story.
      Knowing where to draw the line on something is a hard call–especially as an indie author because I’m working on my own. I have to make up my own mind using only my own sense of what’s going to work. I could easily be off!

  3. I tend to find my villains are the most well-rounded characters in my stories ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s the heroes who need work.

    But taking the time to give them a backstory and motivation can just make them really come alive ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Taylor, I always begin with a character sketch. I find it so much easier to write about the characters once I know where they’ve come from. Even if the reader doesn’t know everything they’ve gone through, it makes it easier to write them as multi-dimensional. Of course, I only figured this out once I started working with my editor and subsequently rewrote my first story. But hey, better to learn late than not at all.:-)

    • Oh wow. Rewriting an entire manuscript. That must have been so heart-wrenching. I’ve had to do that and needed to take some time to distance myself because I was too upset to do it all over again. Congrats on doing that, Kristen. I’m sure the book was better for it. And thank you for the comment!

  5. Pingback: Readers’ Choice | Taylor Grace

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