How to write character

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In fiction, characters drive the narrative and create a voice for the reader to relate to. In the second of our ‘Write Like A Girl’ sessions with author Helen Cross we’ve been looking at how to create characters, using the first chapter of Helen Cresswell’s Lizzie Dripping as inspiration.

The chapter starts: ‘Once upon a time – and I mean last week, or last year – there was a girl called Lizzie Dripping. There is a girl called Lizzie Dripping in most villages round these parts…It fits the kind of girl who is dreamy and daring at the same time, and who turns things upside down and inside out wherever she goes and whatever she does..’

In this first chapter, we are introduced to Lizzie through her setting, her dialogue and her interaction with the characters around her. We get an idea of what Lizzie wants, the obstacles that stand in her way and the conflicts that exist in her world – all important elements in creating character.

What makes a character

  • A few biographical details (name/age/occupation etc)
  • Setting (time and place) ‘location confines and defines a person’
  • What are their interests, likes and dislikes?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What do they want?
  • What do they need? (want versus need is a good premise for a story)
  • What do they look like? How do they move? What is their body language?
  • Their voice – what vocabulary and speech patterns do they use?
  • Who is around them and how do they interact?
  • Some back-story – what has happened to them before.
  • How do they change during the course of the narrative. Main characters need to change.

Here are three exercises for creating character.

  1. Create a character, running through the criteria above. Now describe that person’s bedroom. What objects do they have around them? What is on their bedside table? What is the colour-scheme? Is the room tidy, or messy? What is on the walls?
  2. Write about your best friend when you were aged 13. Describe a scene or incident involving this person. You can write from their point of view, your own or an observer’s. Use description and dialogue to show the character.
  3. Write about a character doing their job. Focus in on the detail of what they do, the expression on their face as they work. Through their actions and interactions, show how they feel about their work.

Once you’ve created your character, you might find you want to develop that person further and build up a story around them. Who knows, what you write may even turn into a novel, or a series! I hope you have fun creating your characters, but don’t be surprised if they start to develop a life of their own!

Blue Tide Rising – released later this month

In other news, my character, Amy Blue, will be unleashed very soon when my first novel, Blue Tide Rising, is released later this month. Here’s some info about the book including taster chapters.

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