Friday, September 24, 2010

Creating Compelling Characters

What makes a character compelling? Is a characters likability in the eye of the beholder? Maybe, but maybe not.

We as writers have the power of words. Words are powerful and give us the ability to make a reader fall in love with a character or loathe a character. Watch out because writers will put a spell on you dear readers! So, how are we as writers going to make you love or hate a character?

 Know your characters better than they know themselves. Know what makes them tick early in your writing and create a character profile. It is a great way to get to know those fabulous characters that live in the depths of our brains and come to life through our words!

Here are some ideas to add in a character profile.


-Past experiences- good or bad experiences, environment they grew up in, their family, friends.
     A teen who grew up in New York City will sure think and act different than say a teen who grew up in the middle of Kansas.

-Character motivations-What internal and external motivation makes that character tick.
         Think character goal, motivation, and conflict.
-Physical appearance- eyes, weight, height color hair.

-Environment- Do they live in the country, city, or another planet?

 -Quirks-bring on some bad habits, nail biting, hair twirling, addiction to candy.

 -Actions- how do characters react to negative or positive situations? Are they followers, take control of situations, or run away morphing into a mouse?

-Style-Do they wear overalls and don't care about what they look like or are they addicted to shopping at the Gap?

-Hobbies-What brings them happiness?
              Need a hobby? CLICK HERE for 101 hobbies

 -Pet peeves-We all have them! Bad driving, not putting the toilet seat down, leaving laundry in a pile  
  on the floor.
               Need ideas? CLICK HERE for a list of 500 pet peeves

Now quick take that character and slap some handcuffs on them, don't forget to read them their Miranda rights. Take them to the local precinct. They are in a room now with a one way mirror. You put a cup of day old Joe in front of them and take off the cuffs. First you do good cop. Then you walk out of the room behind the mirror and put on a wig. You go back in and do bad cop.  Interrogate the heck out of them and be amazed at the things you learn from your character!

                                             Happy Writing!

I just want to add a link. The ladies of SEEKERVILLE have a wonderful and informative post on developing characters today also. They write christian fiction and their blog was the very first blog I read on writing and they have become blogging mentors for me. It is an example of how just because you write a certain genre doesn't mean you can't learn a thing or two by writer's of a different genre. (Oh and I love their books). Variety is the spice of life!

I LOVE experiments. For anyone who is ever afraid their writing will mirror another writers, go see Elana's blog (in the side bar to the right) for a full list of participants who are blogging on this same topic. I guarantee that the 80 plus participants will all having something different to add! Bring on those compelling character!


Meredith said...

I hadn't thought of pet peeves and hobbies! You're so right that characters need these--makes them much more human. Thanks for the advice!

Talei said...

Great list Kerri! I like the hobbies too, haven't really dwelled too much on that for my main MC lately so I should take a look at it. ;)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

All right - someone else who gets all detailed about creating her characters!!

Elana Johnson said...

OH MY HECK. You have links for hobbies and pet peeves. I love you forever. I mean, I already did, but this just solidified it. :)

Lola Sharp said...

500 pet peeves! Zoinks. ;)

Have a wonderful weekend,

Andrea Mack said...

I like what you said about learning from your characters. When I give my characters a unique hobby or situation, I learn something new and that's one of the fun parts of writing!

DaniSue said...

Great post! My boyfriend will tell you that I have at least 500 pet peeves myself. And I have no problem spreading them out among my characters!

Anonymous said...

500 pet peeves?! Wow.

Great post!

Ack, what's your e-mail? I'm lookin' for a crit partner too...I'm working on a middle grade (it's my first shot) & would love to bounce ideas off with someone. ;)

Melissa said...

Pet peeves... I don't think about pet peeves... I mean, my characters have them but I never really thought about it before. Now I'm thinking about how much my own pet peeves do to me, how they affect my character and sometimes shock people. I should give this more consideration.

N. R. Williams said...

Love the good cop bad cop scenario. Can't be your critique partner since I write epic or high fantasy among other types. Good luck finding the right person.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Nicole Zoltack said...

Awesome list! Pet peeves, hobbies... it's the little details that make a character leap off the pages.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Thanks for providing the links to the lists!

Julie said...

"Watch out because writers will put a spell on you dear readers! "

Don't I know it. Been spellbound since I learned to read. :)

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the link, but unfortunately it seems to be down... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please reply to my post if you do!

I would appreciate if a staff member here at could post it.


Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Hi Peter!
Sorry you had trouble with the link. I did check it and they do work.

The sites are

Hope you can visit they are fun sites!