Fleshing Out Your Characters

fictional characters

When I reflect on my favorite characters (those I’ve created and those I’ve read from other authors) they seem so real to me. I remember them. I long to read their next adventure and often wait impatiently for that next juicy book to hit bookstores or library shelves. I’ve met twisted characters. Characters who weren’t necessarily good, but had a kind heart. I’ve met characters with bittersweet backgrounds and I’ve met characters who I’ve wanted to tackle and backhand or slap —  repeatedly.

Characters with this much depth are not accidental. Writers create these characters with deliberate intent. Every action is deliberate, every thought has been carefully constructed. Their features have been drawn with a careful, steady, loving hand. In a sense, characters are real. They become very flesh-and-blood in the minds of readers, but first in the mind of a writer.

While drafting, revising, and editing Book two of the Gabriel Lennox series, I’m comfortable with knowing what the main character will do and will simply NOT do, due to his temperament, his fears, his strengths, his likes, his dislikes, and even the mood he’s feeling during a particular scene. I will use all of this and more in order to drive him to action . . . or not.

However, there’s a new character, who is equally important that has been added to Gabriel’s world (a potential love interest — oooh la, la) and though I see her clearly in my mind, it’s hard to pin her down consistently on paper. And I know why. It’s simply because I don’t know here quite like I know Gabriel and the other cast of mortal, immortal, demonic, angelic, and bloodsucking characters. Yet.

So, I dug through my writing materials and found a wrinkled gem of paper titled, “Fifty questions to ask of each character, but not necessarily to place in the story” (long title, verbatim, I kid you not):

1. What length is your hair?

2. Do you like your hair?

3. What is in your right pocket?

4. Left?

5. Back pockets?

6. What sort of pants are you wearing? (If a woman, you may include a skirt)

7. Of what material are they made?

8. Where did you buy them? (Macy’s, Frederick’s, JC Penny, some shop in Paris, Thrift Store, consignment shop, hand-me-downs).

9. Are these pants (or skirt) provocative? Baggy? Are they clean?

10. Apply the same questions to shirts or blouses.

11. Is there any printing on the clothes you wear everyday? What?

12. How much money do you carry?

13. How much is in your account?

14. What are your debts?

15. Can you pay them off, or are you in financial trouble?

16. What sort of physical shape are you in?

17. How many times a week do you exercise?

18. How often are you sick?

19. Do you have any physical impairments? (count even little ones, like a bad knee).

20. What is your favorite movie?

21. Name three musical groups that you listen to regularly.

22. Who is your favorite author(s)?

23. Where did you grow up?

24. Would you rather be too cold or too hot?

25. What animal do you fear the most?

26. What place do you fear the most?

27. Which movie star is most like you?

28. Which would you most like to be like?

29. Who is your real-life “hero”?

30. In what city do you live?

31. Do you rent or own your dwelling?

32. Is your dwelling old or new?

33. Is it messy or clean and tidy.

34. Is it a house, an apartment, or an efficiency?

35. Do you share your dwelling with others?

36. Who cooks your food?

37. What sort of food is your favorite?

38. What is your favorite dish?

39. What foods are in your average meal?

40. What furniture is in your living room?

41. Your bedroom?

42. What do your sheets look like?

43. How many and what kind of shoes do you own?

44.What’s in your closet?

45. Your desk?

46. What kind of car do you drive? Is it new? Old? Rusty? Manual?

47. What pets do you have? (If none, which do you hate?)

48. What is your favorite sport to watch? To play?

49. How often do you have your teeth cleaned? Eyes checked?

50. Are you a “morning person” or an “evening person”?

These questions can be used to create and/or revise your characters. When I first read this list, I wondered where I would squeeze all of this information in the actual story. However, it’s not necessary to. I plan on answering all of the questions, but I will only include significant details within the story itself.

The excess? I’ll call it research and a referring guide as needed when I’m having trouble writing. I also intend to use these questions for minor characters too because I want them just as real and engaging as my main characters.

I hope you find this list helpful! Happy writing. Happy creating! 🙂

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