Hello wonderful people! Today I welcome L. Diane Wolfe to MFB. Her blog, Spunk on a Stick’s Tips, is a great place to stop for advice on writing, publishing and marketing your book.

Before I let her get cracking, though, I just want to mention that I’m still looking for writers in June. Theme: Querying and Submission. If you are interested in doing a guest post, please read here and contact me. Have a great weekend!

Admin’s done. Now you can take it away, Diane.

If the plot is the backbone of the story, then the characters are the heart. Creating believable characters that your readers will identify with is crucial to a good story. Your characters must have depth, personality and the ability to evoke an emotional response from your reader.
Many writers envision the setting first and the people inhabiting that world second. This sometimes results in shallow characters. Developing a character in depth, complete with flaws, will give you a basis for your narrative. It is easier to build a plot around an individual than force that character into unrealistic situations.
Two factors will determine your character – their background and their personality type. Humans all share similar feelings and needs, but how they respond to those depends on their upbringing and their basic, fundamental personality. 
Race, culture, religion, and economic status all contribute to one’s development as a person. A person’s moral compass is affected by their upbringing. A person raised in a loving family on a farm and someone raised on the streets of New York will not react the same! Flesh out your character with a family history, interests, and experiences.
I recommend that you become familiar with the four basic personality types – choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic. (“Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer is an excellent book for researching personality types and traits.) A bold, first-born choleric would likely take charge in a situation, while an introverted phlegmatic would step aside.
Avoid the temptation to create a perfect character. People are flawed creatures. Give them weaknesses, impulses, and unresolved issues. They will also need strengths and dreams to carry them and the story forward.
Remember these three points:
1 – Create a background for you characters
2 – Develop their personality
3 – Give your characters weaknesses, strengths, and dreams based on their background and personality
Characters will always be the drive and focal point of any story. Build on those characters first. Once you have established that foundation, you can begin creating an intriguing tale!
L. Diane Wolfe
Professional Speaker & Author
Known as “Spunk On A Stick,” Wolfe is a member of the NSA and a motivational speaker. “Overcoming Obstacles With SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting”, ties all of her goal-setting and leadership seminar’s information together into one complete, enthusiastic package. She also conducts seminars on book publishing and promoting, and assists writers through her author services. Her YA series, The Circle of Friends, features morally grounded, positive stories that appeal to both teens and concerned parents. Wolfe travels extensively for media interviews and speaking engagements, maintains a dozen websites & blogs, and contributes to several other sites and newsletters.

Thanks for this great guest post, Diane! So, bloggy friends. Are you strong on character? Do they walk into your head fully formed or do you custom build them yourself? How do you make sure that you have intriguing characters?


27 thoughts on “Characterization

  1. I like to challenge the characters dreams. One of the bad guys does something to take away one thing the good guys hold dear. But I like happy endings so by the end of the third book their lives will be restored.

  2. The characters in Tainted Souls were half-formed as I began writing. Their basic outlook and personality type were set, but many of their quirks and much of their background emerged as I wrote. To me, that's half the fun of writing — seeing these fully formed humans develop from the half-formed clay I started with.

  3. I have a few characters who walked into my head fully formed and a few who came with the setting. The ones who were already there are usually the stronger ones. 🙂

  4. Characters first, yes! Give us characters we care about. I call them the bloody heart, too, and say this about it:

    Story is the bones, character the bloody heart. Plot is just the road they take.

    – Eric

  5. Lynn, her book is wonderful. So glad I read it before I began writing my books.

    Steven, it is fun to see all the little details emerge.

    LD, I'm happy that gives you a new idea.

    Anthony, characters need to carry the story, not the other way around, which is why they are so important to me.

    Eric, very well said.

  6. I've had to work at getting character on paper. For some reason it took a lot of practice to get the translation down between head and keyboard.

  7. Fantastic post!! For me, setting is almost an afterthought. I put everything into character. It;s what I love most about any book. If the characters aren't real and flawed, then I don't generally have the stamina to stick with them.

  8. Thanks Diane for this wonderful post on characterization. I sometimes feel we tend to overlook on the emotional connect our characters must make with our readers right in the begining.

    Thanks Misha for hosting Diane.

  9. You have so much good advice to offer Diane. I appreciate it more and more. We all love good characters. I hadn't thought of using the 4 personality types before but of course we write them subconsciously. Good to check.


  10. Rachna, that emotional connect is what makes people read and enjoy a book.

    Denise, we do!

    Amanda, it's a wonderful book. It will also help you deal with the people in your life, so double bonus.

    Thank you again, Misha.

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