What’s in a character?

Characters–or rather, strong characters–are at the very heart of all great literature and will always be. For the longest time, I’ve been convinced that a story revolves around the plot. But, over the last year, that thought process has changed and now weighs heavily on the side of character development. You see, a writer who does not create convincing characters will fail, again and again, no matter how fabulous the plot of the story is. At least, that is what I believe, although I know there are always exceptions.

What tricks/tools do you use in creating a believable character who pops off the page? For me, I usually gather things from everyday life. In my own work, I have very rarely set out to present a character who is knowingly based on someone familiar to me. The great majority of my characters are inventions–and I usually pull them together based loosely off of a few character traits I’ve witness over the years, whether it be a friend, family member, or complete stranger. The characters always evolve throughout the writing process of course, but I usually begin with a pretty detailed image in my head when I begin. The image usually goes much deeper than physical characteristics, and really dives into the heart of what the novel is about. For instance, my new novel, at its barest level, is about personal redemption and struggle. In developing my MC, I posed myself some honest, personal questions about what drives us as human beings, and what decides our path in this lifetime. Through that, I created a MC who is truly on one of a kind. She is flawed of course, but she is honest, raw, and real, and I think through that, she can easily get to the heart of the matter and help the novel move along.

If done correctly, it really can be a thing of beauty.

Who are some of your literary characters and what qualities do they possess?


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