Monday, September 29, 2014

Adding Flesh to our Characters' Bones & IWSG Anthology News

The stories we remember long after reading them are the ones with compelling characters. As writers, we should try to replicate this quality in our work. Plotlines are important, but along with conflict, characters' actions are necessary to drive stories to completion.

Character charts are useful for helping us to better understand our hero/heroine. Rounding them out makes them realistic enough for readers to want to spend time with them and while crafting, there are things we should remember.

Avoid Isolation - Apart from friends and relatives, a variety of people cross our paths in a day—at work, school and where we live. While we don't need to insert every interaction, little touches that advance our storylines and add colour to our characters' lives can also hold clues that tie plot lines together.

Character Traits - Relationships tell a lot about people. How does your main character treat the people in his/her life? Is he kind, impatient or self-absorbed? It is necessary to create situations that show the strength and individuality of the characters we want our readers to admire.

Hobbies If we're not careful, our characters can be consumed by their problems, which is unhealthy and unrealistic. By giving them things they like to do, we remind readers that despite challenges, life continues.

Mannerisms. We all have habits that identify us—twirling our hair, giving other people ‘the look’, or making snappy comebacks—and so should our characters. The more unique the habit, the better it defines the person and should remain with them until the story is complete, or they give up the habit.

Problem Solving Approach
Another thing that sets individuals apart is the way they handle problems. One person may whine and moan about the unfairness of life and do nothing. Another individual is resourceful and tackles problems head-on. The most memorable characters are those who take action despite discouragement, fear and opposition.

Now that you’ve read my list of must-haves, what are some of the things that make your characters more rounded?

Don’t forget that Wednesday, October 1, is IWSG post day. It’s also this website’s one year anniversary and the day to post your entry for the IWSG anthology. If it is over 300 words, you can email it to

The purpose of the book is to assist other writers on the journey, so we are looking for tips and instructions in the areas of writing, publishing, and marketing. It can be inspirational in nature as long as you provide a solid benefit. We’ve already received a lot of great entries–mostly in the area of writing–so looking for some good tips on publishing and marketing. Be sure to state which category, add a one line by-line, and permission for us to use it in the book.

Once you have posted on October 1, go to this page at the IWSG site and enter your link - The deadline for submissions is October 2.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Ready to rock it on Wednesday!
I always give my characters a past. That helps me to understand where they are when the story begins.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post. I think sometimes writers forget those random people that cross our paths every day.

I'm ready for Wednesday! :)

Pat Hatt said...

Giving them a past set up gives one a lot of wiggle room to create in the future.

Bish Denham said...

Excellent advice. It's always good to include an orbit of people in your stories because we do not live in a vacuum.

I'll be posting something on the 1st.

Birgit said...

Although i am not a writer per se, I think your advice is bang on. One would have to write with something we are familiar with to lend a touch of realism in a story even if it is in outer space...where i feel i am most of the time:)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I have a character profile I fill out, with everything from background, family, goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc. It helps me to create a real character.

J.L. Campbell said...

We don't know who we are without our past, so that key, Alex.

Hey, Christine. I've learned over time that I need to add these small details.

Wise words, Pat.

So true, Bish.

Hi, Birgit. Although we read to escapre our reality, familiar landmarks in our fantasy worlds are good.

That helps me as well, Diane. I don't like trolling through my ms to try to remember details, I'd have been smarter to put down before I forgot.

Deborah Taylor-French said...

All good and important parts of a character's life to consider and weave into fictional worlds.

I would add that a character's belief system (or lack thereof) sets them firmly in my mind. Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky's novels threw open the doors to inner turmoil and interior struggles between faith, doubt, fear and hope.

So I ask myself as I'm writing "What does this character believe in? Does that change by the end of the novel?"

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I like to have some family connections for my characters or lack of them. All ready for Wednesday.

Michelle Wallace said...

Your post reinforces the importance of building up character profiles...and this is such a handy list to consider when fleshing out characters...thanks Joy!

J.L. Campbell said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Deborah. We are what we believe.

Family is important, Susan. Good point.

You're welcome, Michelle. I do believe is building those profiles. It save a lot of time when writing.

G. B. Miller said...

I try to base my characters personalities on the people who have either crossed my path or have touched me in some way over the past dozen years or so.

Father Nature's Corner

Mary Aalgaard said...

This is excellent. Characters make us care about the story. I started two books recently. In one, I can't find a character that I like, or care enough about, to keep reading. In the other, the voice of a young girl out for vengeance for her father's murder, is calling me to pick the book back up, shut the door, and ignore the family, until I've read her to completion of her quest.
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