Are You Making an Impression with Your Character?

The Hunger Games (film)
Image via Wikipedia

Are Your Characters Making an Impression?

Traci Kenworth


When we set off to write our story, often the characters we choose are flat. They have no substance, no reason for existing yet, they’re a blank canvas. Oh, we might see them as a grand creation in our minds but they’re not ready, not yet. First drafts are rough, weak, often to the point of being hopeless, we think. But the truth is, they’re not. It gives us the skeleton, the bones with which to work.

So you didn’t get your character to spring to life in it. There’s still a chance. I can’t stress getting to “know” your characters enough. They need to become the very air you breathe, so to speak. Of course, I’m not suggesting you ignore your regular job, family, and friends. Your creativity will ferment like yeast and produce larger –than-life characters if you concentrate on them in the time you do set aside for your writing.

Have you done in-depth interviews with your character? Writing their backstory, answering their present, past, and future questions as to who they are, who they will become? It’s important to flesh out your characters as much as possible. That little side story about the touchdown that won the championship back in 1997 might seal the deal on who your person is, what they stand for, his ideals.

As you get to know them better, what once was a frame for your story becomes fleshed out and clothed. For example: I took a girl who was running away from it all and gave her something to stay for, something to fight to keep. That running quality in her is her Achille’s heel, love is her savoir. She was a stick figure when I began, the urge to run the only thing important in her life. Slowly, when she gained others to care about instead of herself, she became a whole person with weaknesses and strengths. By the time I reach the final draft, you can no longer see the bones sticking out, only the polish of a fully-formed character. She could step off the stage.

Sometimes it is a quick balance of the plot that brings the character to the forefront in our mind, solidifies them for us. For example: I had struggled with one character as to who she was, why she was the way she was, until a twist in the plot defined her. She went from barely there, to vibrant in the story. The setting, too, can influence who your character becomes. Look at your background. What kind of a person would live there, what would it take to succeed?

Ask the hard questions and you will discover who your character is, who they’re meant to become. What are some of your tricks to making an impression with a character? There’s no one right way to do this, whatever works for you is proof that all Muses work differently and yet when their finished with the process, we’re left with characters such as Stu Redman in The Stand, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and so many more.


8 thoughts on “Are You Making an Impression with Your Character?

  1. You’re right about getting to know characters as we go, and I agree about how important that first draft is for helping us do that. Other people can help too – I remember how you helped me explore the darker side of one of my characters in my first ms. (Thanks) px


  2. I know it’s a bit of a mission sometimes to write down all this extra stuff about your characters when you just want to get on with the story, but it makes a character so much more REAL when you can drop these tiny details throughout your manuscript. It really makes them come to life a lot more to know that they have (and had) a life “outside” the pages of the book.


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