Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

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Writing Craft #1 Concoct a Character

Writing a character sketch is like drawing a picture – like painting a portrait of your character. If you are lucky enough, you may even be able to conjure up a movie of your character – seeing her frolic through your mind or, better yet, across the pages of your story. She may be digging a hole to the other side of the earth or stumbling lost in a forest with wild beasties in mad pursuit. She may be cowering in a closet, walking a tightrope in a circus, or fighting with a best friend over the color tutu they will wear in the ballet recital. The possibilities are infinite. Your character may be meek and shy, or she may be the belle of the ball – self-centered and oozing confidence. She may be a bully or a nerd, or perhaps she is the teacher’s pet. Your endless imagination is your only limit.

There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for developing a character, but there are some guidelines that may be helpful as you travel your journey from story idea to completed book.

The thing your character wants above all else will be the crucial point in driving your story. Through intense desire, your character will come alive. Her physical characteristics and attributes will develop as she becomes entangled in the plot. There is no need to name your character or supply her with physical attributes at the beginning. Be patient. Her personality will emerge as she wiggles her way through the story line. A name, hair color, or age may stifle your creativity about your character. Your unnecessary limitations on your imagination may limit the depth of her character. So let your character flow freely until she is ready to take on her physical being. Then unleash her and see where she takes you.

Still it never hurts to talk to your character – flesh her out.  Some people call it interviewing the character. Find out her greatest desire. Does she want to be best friends with the most popular girl in class – the one who scorns her? Does she want to get rid of her glasses because she is endlessly being teased? Does she wish her baby brother didn’t exist? It’s your character’s burning desire, no matter what it is, that will propel her through the story as she seeks her goal.

Life is not easy, and neither should it be for your character. Throw in some conflicts. Make it difficult for her to achieve her goal. What makes her shake in her boots? Is it the monster in the closet or under the bed? Is it the bully in the girls’ restroom? Is it the patches her mom sewed on her too-baggy jeans? Why does she need to get an A+ on her Science exam? Is it to impress the cutest boy in her class or because her parents promised her a trip to Disneyland? No matter! With problems peppering your story that your character must surmount, you will capture your audience. When she finally does reach her goal – and she must – by the end of the story, it will be sweet – and satisfying. And if you have done your job well, then your readers will easily relate to your character. They will gladly root for her to your very last word.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)


May 26, 2012 - Posted by | Writing Craft | , , , , , ,


  1. Donna — Thanks for the useful tips. Let’s hope I put them to use soon. Kathy

    Comment by kathy strack | June 4, 2012 | Reply

  2. You will, Kathy, you will.

    Comment by donnaodonnellfigurski | June 5, 2012 | Reply

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