Making Characters Come Alive

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted something.  I could say that life got into the way, and that’s partly true.  But it also seems like too wimpy of an excuse as well.  I’ve committed to a blog, and now I need to to it.

The Tag Line on this Blog is “Learn More about this writer’s life.”  I’ve covered the life part pretty well, but I realized that I haven’t talked any at all about my writing.  So from now on, I’ll try to occasionally bring up a writing topic.  So for my first one?  Characters.

My principal genre is Christian fiction, also known as inspirational fiction.  I tend to go into two sub-genres, romance (no, sorry, not the bodice ripper types) and suspense.  So what, exactly, does this mean?  It means that I write from the worldview created by my faith.  Some folks may say that writing from that worldview results in boring characters.  I disagree.  We’re all imperfect.  It doesn’t matter who we are or what are faiths are.  We all have strengths.  We all have weaknesses.  We all are human.  That’s what makes creating characters so fascinating.

Why are they fascinating? Creating characters lets me explore human nature.  One thing that I do before writing a novel is to sit down and create why I call a character profile.  In this profile, I use an outline to draft up everything that I can think of about the character.  What do they look like?  What is their personality like?  What are their interests?  What food and music tastes do they have?  What are their strengths and weaknesses?  What types of books would I find on their shelves?  What do they keep in the trunks of their cars?  (Yep, this can reveal a lot about a character.)  What is their past romantic history like?  What is their faith history?  This may seem like a lot of work, and it is.  But it pays off in creating characters that can come alive.  If you’re an aspiring fiction writer, I highly recommend this exercise.  After you complete your profiles, you’ll be very surprised at how your characters come alive.

My current favorite male character is an antagonist.  He’s brilliant.  Devious.  He takes no prisoners and lets nothing get in the way of completing the missions set before him.  Yet though he’s on the wrong side of the law, he’s got a compassionate side that can pop up at the most unusual times.  I’ve enjoyed writing about him so much that I plan to have him in four novels, three part of a trilogy.

And then there’s my favorite female character, a heroine.  Though she’s a heroine, she’s got her own set of weaknesses.  She yearns for her father, who was never part of her life.  This yearning is a huge weakness that is exploited by the antagonist mentioned above.  Yet she’s got a strong, gritty side to her as well.  She doesn’t mind locking horns with the antagonist.  Before she becomes a Christian, she’s well-versed in the less polite forms of the English language and had a lifestyle that isn’t the best.  And becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that she drops all of these characteristics at once.  No, gradually, she relinquishes some of them, but other traits like her grittiness and strength remain behind to be refined.

Okay.  So I’ve talked about how I create characters.  It’s no secret of mine, and I hope that aspiring writers will endeavor to make their characters come alive.  For my next writing post, I’ll discuss ideas.

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