"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Session #3: Character Development Camp

Dear Mom, Dad, and Tootles,

Wow, what a week. I feel like I’m learning so much, and what’s more, I’m excited to use what I’m learning. This week, Coach Sol taught us about creating characters. No small job. I never realized how important characters were to a story. I mean, I knew, but I suppose they were always more of a means to moving my plot forward. Now I’m learning that my plot can grow organically out of my characters—if my characters come alive well enough.
I had a lot of fun conducting character interviews and writing character journals for my main characters. I haven’t even started my story and already I feel like my characters are living people.

Coach Sol says there are five different ways to characterize:

~Through physical attributes
~With clothing or the manner of wearing clothing
~Through psychological attributes and mannerisms
~Through actions
~In dialogue

He said that instead of saying that “George was a big fellow” to try something like “When George came your way, you thought you were being run down by a truck.” Doesn’t that give you a different feel? Very neat.

Coach Sol told us to use different markers to characterize. He said to pay attention to simple things that can tell your reader a lot about your character. Things like fingernails. Public conduct with children. Accessories, gum-chewing what kind of car they drive, their mannerisms, what they eat and drink, their vocabulary. Their attitudes.

Coach said that characters of different cultural classes caught in a crucible (the environment, emotional or physical, that holds your characters together) are ideal for fiction, and for creating a great plot—which is next week’s lesson!
Thanks for making me stay at camp, Mom and Dad. I never would have gotten to know my new friends—my characters—so well if I’d left!

Love you,
          Your Creative Camper

What methods do you use to make your characters come alive? My favorite character is Hadassah in Francine River’s Mark of the Lion series. What’s yours?


  1. Yay, my favorite topic! Characters! I definitely try to use the show not tell method of making my characters come alive. I also love fun interactions through dialogue and giving my characters interesting quirks.

  2. I love Hadassah - she was such a sweet, strong woman of faith. She would have to be at the top of my list. I also loved Caroline in A Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin - probably because the novel is done in first person and you feel like you're inside her skin.

    I love writing a voice journal for each character, even significant secondary characters. I write them in first person and they speak to me in a way that third person never could. I love knowing all the details that the reader and the other characters don't know. I think it adds tension to my writing. Thanks for sharing the tips you're learning, Heidi!

    1. Lynn Austin is one of my favorites, but I haven't read A Candle in the Darkness...going to have to put that on my to-read list. Thanks Gabrielle!

  3. Great stuff, Heidi! I'm a reformed plot-first novelist and I've had a lot of fun focusing on characters more lately. :) Have a great weekend!

  4. I absolutely loved Hadassah! She was so endearing. You make a great point on creating real characters with lively descriptions. I love creating characters and it's also tons of fun to work up those secondary characters and all the quirks :)

    1. Thanks for the comment, and thanks for stopping by, Joanne!