From the Archives: IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life

Do the characters you write about become real to you? Do you sometimes find yourself wondering what they’re up to as if you could simply call them up and chat? I must admit I have done that once. Okay maybe more than once.

Sure, they’re a figment of your imagination, and you’d do well to remember that, but creating good fictional characters involves more than mere physical description. In fact, some authors don’t provide a physical description at all; they leave it up to the imagination of the reader. What I’ve learned is that physical description is the least important part of good characterization.

If you want your characters to come to life, to know what they would say or do or feel, you need to get into their heads. You need to understand what motivates them. To do that you need to know where they’ve been. What has happened to them in the past? What was their childhood like? What environment did they grow up in? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their hopes and fears? What have they experienced that would give rise to any quirks, phobias or disorders? Do they have any special talents or abilities? Do they have any unique expressions? How do they treat other people?

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”  ―    Anonymous

Of course, all of this is up to you. The answers to these questions come from your imagination. When you create a character that goes well beyond physical description, it is as if you have brought that character to life. They not only become real to you but they become real to your readers. The reader becomes invested in your book and that is the main goal.

“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.”  ―    Berkeley Breathed

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5 thoughts on “From the Archives: IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life”

  1. Excellent final quote. I don’t really wonder what my characters are up to when I’m not paying attention to them. I’m always curious about where they’re going. Kind of like a parent being concerned about a child’s future.

  2. Excellent article, and excellent idea to republish some of your posts. Such a great idea, I’ve decided to borrow your idea and occasionally publish a Throwback Thursday post. It’s always good to revisit old posts and see if your perspective has changed over the months or years.

  3. I’ve noticed the tendency not to provide physical description in a few books and I like the concept – letting the reader create the physicality of the character based on his or her personality.
    I tend to do little in the way of physical description work on my character unless it has a particular relevance or impact on them / other characters

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