How to Create Good Characters.

Creating new characters is always a blast for me.

At the end of writing a first draft, my story might be full of plot holes and unforgivable timeline errors and no real story arc, but by then, I know my characters. I know what they look like, what they think, how they act in certain situations, their cute and/or irritating mannerisms, what they definitely would not do in a given situation, their hopes and fears, their backstory and their wishes for their future.

On the second pass, apart from filling in the plot holes, I’m constantly telling myself “[So-and-so] would never say that, Bree.” It’s incredible to see a character grow from a vague shadow at the beginning of a manuscript, to a living, breathing, feeling person by the end.

And there is nothing more satisfying to the crazy puppet-master author than to throw our poor characters in to more and more impossible situations for them to deal with.


Mwha ha ha.  Ahem.

The beginning

For my major characters, I have a list of things that I nut out about them before I start, which helps me to write them more like rounded human beings rather than cardboard cut outs. But once I’ve filled in the list for each character, I never refer to it again while I’m writing their stories. It goes into the slush pile labelled “One of the many bits of writing I do that never actually make it into the story.”

Some writers talk about having conversations with their characters in their heads. Personally, I think anyone who talks to imaginary people is an axe murderer waiting to happen. But that’s just my opinion. And when other authors tell me that, I smile and nod and stay very, very quiet, because I’m not that fond of axes through my skull.

Go figure.

Character Names

There is nothing more fun that going on the interwebs and looking up Names from the Middle Ages. You wonder what parents could possibly have been thinking sometimes. I guess nothing really changes, does it. Ermentrude and Claramunda and Ysabelon would be the medieval equivalent of North West and Apple Martin.

Surnames are even better, because in those times, they called it how it was. A man named Roger Fuckebythenavel was outlawed on 28 September, 1311. True story.  Eysteinn Harm-Fart and Herjolfr Shriveled-Testicle are another couple. Although admittedly, they are noted as nicknames, they’re still pretty funny. Can you imagine how devastatingly putrid Eysteinn’s gas must have been to get that nickname?


By the End

At the end of the first draft, characters are saying and doing things that their counterpart at the beginning of the draft would never have done. That’s why the second draft is so important for me. It solidifies the characters, changes scenes to improve realism and angst. And gives me that opportunity to push them into nasty, nasty places that they don’t like, to see how they extricate themselves.

And the best part?

All this stuff is just hanging around in my brain, waiting to be transferred to ink and then to paper.

I love being an author.


How to Create Good Characters.
Scroll to top