A to Z Challenge: Characters

This post is part of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. This year my theme is simply, "things I know." Some posts will be informational, some about life lessons, some about things I've learned as an author/blogger.

Character development is, I admit, something I struggle with a bit. That's why last year I did my whole A-Z theme on characters. Each day I did writing exercises to practice writing about people. Something that is tricky about writing people is that we are all so complex. To create, from scratch, a whole person?! It's a little like playing God. My ego hasn't gotten that big yet! But there are a few things I've learned about creating characters:

  • There is no shame in pulling parts of your characters' personalities and histories from your own life or people you know. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
  • Readers can fill in a lot of gaps. No need to give a physical description, down to the freckle on his left wrist, unless that plays an important part in the story.
  • Most things characters do should be influenced by their history in some way. As actors say, "What is my motivation?" or, "why am I doing this?" There has to be a reason for every action.
  • That said, not every character is so important as to need a name and entire history. It's ok to have peripheral characters that are just that. Maybe a tiny bit of history to establish why they are there, but no need to make a home movie reel for the incidental bartender.
  • Bartholomew Boulstridge Bell
    from our new book, Sky Pirates
  • Main characters must be dynamic! They have to learn and change, for better or worse, otherwise why do we care to read about them? The lovely lad at right is the main character in our new book, Sky Pirates. He starts as a somewhat stuffy scientist's assistant and in some threads turns into quite the adventurer. Change! It's what makes reading about a character fun. :)

Anything y'all can share about characters? Your favorites? Least favorite? Has a character in a book ever really pissed you off? (the answer to that for me is YES - the main character in Eat, Pray, Love. UGH)


  1. Love the name!! I'm doing a character spotlight too for the A to Z Challenge in another blog of mine. I'm loving it.

  2. Character is so important. They drive the book in most cases. I guess my ego has gotten out of control as it is easily my favorite thing to do, lol.

    Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

  3. Good pointers. Since my first book is a memoir, I didn't have to make up characters, but I did have to strip away my perceptions and judgments and let the reader form their own conclusions...a challenging fete that!

    Best regards,

  4. When it comes to characters, wasted words turn me off. I'm so glad you mentioned that above. Readers have imagination, and maybe they don't want a freckle on the left wrist. Details are important, but don't overdo it. Focus on the story, and let the characters reveal themselves.

    MJ, A to Z Challenge Co-Host
    Writing Tips
    Effectively Human
    Lots of Crochet Stitches

  5. Characters seem to come to me almost completely fully formed. I can write pages and pages of notes about them that fall out of my pencil like water. Most of the time I don't use much of what I've written down, but somehow those notes form a kind of sheer curtain background that comes through while I'm writing the story.

  6. I had to add a bit more to some of my characters. I had them so well defined in my head, I neglected to write some of the details down to help the read visualize. =)

    AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

  7. I guess you have to use something from those you either know or see around you. Some of my characters are true composites. Hope no one recognizes themselves.

  8. I've used plenty from people I know...might as well use that totally failed romance and make something good come from it ;-) I think it's important that main characters have flaws, or they aren't believable as real people. I totally agree with you about peripheral characters, but sometimes I give them a bit of a back story in my head so I know them better, but that's not shared with the audience. It's just for my own benefit.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014

  9. Great pointers for Character development. I think most of us have to weed out the superfluous details and work on highlighting the important facets of characters that the readers can build on as they read. Thanks for your tips!
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

  10. Great post. Don't forget the fatal flaw. It can be the best part.

  11. My C-word is 'Character' too, on Amlokiblogs. Excellent points here, AJ, especially about the influence of history on characters.

    The first censored post I've read in the challenge :)

    Damyanti Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2014, Latest Post

    Twitter: @damyantig

  12. Yes, my characters are almost completely based on people I know in real life

    Teaching English with Mr. Duncan
    A-Z of hotels

  13. I'm so bad at this. I create as I go but then I notice they're kind of flat.
    I should think about more of this before.

  14. Wonderful pointers, AJ! Thanks for sharing your insights about characterization! :)


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