Laura Ellen’s Top Ten Blog Posts

#7: A Writing DNA Selection on Character Building

Over on the Sleuths, Spies, and Alibis blog we have a feature called Writing DNA where we share writing tips, inspirations, etc. Here is one of mine from 2011:


Photo by Saïvann ¤

Could you write the life story of the person in this photo?

Of course not! You don’t know him . . .or her . . . heck, you probably don’t even know if it’s a him or a her 🙂

Why, then, would you start a story without knowing your characters?

This week, my Writing DNA tip is: get to know your characters. I mean really get to know them. Sit down with a pen and a paper and talk to them, all of them – your main character, your supporting characters, your villain. Ask them questions about their likes and dislikes, what they are afraid of, what they can’t live without. Ask them about the time they were lost or the time they were scared or the time they laughed so hard they wet their pants. Ask the questions you’d ask if they were a new friend or a potential date.

Most of the stuff you learn about your characters won’t  be in your story. These are things for you to know, background info that will let you understand your character and how he/she should  react in certain situations. However, often what you learn about your characters will at some point help you write yourself out of a tough spot or give you new material to work with when you find your plot going in a direction you hadn’t expected.

So get interviewing – you’ll be surprised at what your characters have to say!

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