“Building Your Storyline”
Part 3 – Building Your Characters
Romeo & Juliet. Bert & Ernie. Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs. What do all these characters have in common? They were all the product of someone’s thoughtful imagination.
When reading a good book, (a really good book) it is easy to fall in love with the hero and heroine. I find myself pulling for them as they encounter life’s lessons and cry with them as the world around them falls apart. And of course, the story would not be written right if not for the happy ending that brings two different people together.
Building characters people will love and can relate to is a job in itself. You are molding two (or more) fictional lives and creating personalities set apart from each other.
How do you create such characters? First, establish a time period. Once you know what year your story is taking place it is easier to begin shaping lives. I write historicals set in the World War II era, thus every character I bring to life must have a name, personality, dress, and likes of the 1940’s.
Choosing a name:
This is my favorite part. I love the name choosing process. A name can reflect personality, whether sweet and tender or gruff and grungy. Since my novels are of a 1940’s element, I print out baby names of the 20’s. (This can be searched from any web site or in any baby name book on the shelves) My characters would have been born in the 20’s so it is important I find names suitable for the time period.
Choosing an appearance:
Before even choosing a name, most writers already know what their characters are going to look like. It’s almost instinctive. Sometimes their appearance will also reflect a personality type. Or to keep the reader interested, the appearance does not at all match the disposition of the character. Using a differing guise for each fictional individual adds depth and keeps the reader turning pages.
The personality type:
There are a few different ways to ‘get to know’ the people you will be spending a lot of time with. Be sure to learn as much about your characters as you can.
Being a member of American Christian Fiction Writers has helped me learn the many methods of developing characters. Some writers actually use a personality test on their characters. Other writers document and mimic a person whom he/she admires. My favorite method, however, comes from a woman whom I have come to respect. She is writer, Valerie Comer.
In her blog from April 13, 2012, Valerie invites writers to ‘interview’ their characters. Questions anywhere from careers and dwelling place to deep personal issues that a character may be dealing with. I found her piece on character interviews very helpful and have adopted it for my writing.
I invite you to visit Valerie Comer’s blog at:
be sure to check out her books as well!
Above all, have fun in your writing. Do not let it stress you out or allow you to become frustrated. Take your time and enjoy the process. God Bless!
Did You Know?
Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” debuted on radio November 11, 1939, Armistice Day, with the infallible Kate Smith belting out the patriotic tune.