Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Creating Characters Checklist

I’m about to start the big rewrite of my science fiction novel Secrets, following the big edit, and I’ve been looking through my computer files for good advice.

If your characters aren’t believable, if they don’t feel like living breathing human beings, if their actions don’t ring true, your novel won’t work. Their physical appearance is often the first thing we think about, but may be the least important thing. You need to concentrate much more on their thoughts and mannerisms. I don’t know where I got this from, it may be notes from a book, but it’s worth sharing.

Creating Characters
  1. What do they care about?
  2. Rationalise their behaviour – find plausible reasons for why they think and believe as they do.
  3. Labels: sex, age, vocation and manner.
    A. Manner: practice finding adjectives
    B. Manner: what is their dominant impression?
    C. Manner: incidents which show this
  4. Fleshing out: tags, traits and relationships
    A. Tags: name, appearance, ability, speech, mannerisms and attitude
    B. Traits: habitual modes of response and patterns of behaviour
    C. Consider whether to cast a given character to type or against type
    D. Weaknesses
  5. The World Within 1: motive
    A. What must they change to win happiness?
    B. What constitutes happiness for them?
    C. What are they scared of?
  6. The World Within 2: direction, goal, drive and attitude
    A. Direction: his tendency to lead the kind of life he enjoys
         i.   Adventure: yearning for new experience
         ii.  Recognition: fame
         iii. Response: love
         iv. Power: over others
    B. Goal: a goal exists only in terms of dissatisfaction with an existing situation. To
         reach the general goal, the character must attain a whole series of intermediate goals
    C. Drive: the intensity with which a character wants to change or reshape his situation.
         Most people are not totally motivated, they just drift
    D. Attitude: a hangup that’s hard to get rid of.
I hope you find this helpful. I find there are lots of things I haven’t thought through, even though this is the second book with these main characters. I obviously need to take my own advice!
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at

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