Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Study in Character

Well, if anything will cause you to think about character, it is a house full of 9- and 10-year old boys. Son #2 turned ten today and last night he invited just a few of his buds for an evening of swimming, video games, playing outside in the dark, and eating way too much food.

On my personal blog I call Son #2 Jot because jot means "the smallest character". He is my littlest guy and he is for sure a character. He adores collecting rocks and bones and discovers fossils nearly every week in random places. His tender heart always roots for the under-dog and never wants to see anyone left out, teased, or hurt. As the baby of the family he excels at making us laugh and lightening any tense situation.

As I served up pizza, cake and ice cream last night, I listened to their banter, their negotiating skills, and their humor--all in light of their individual personalities. I have a fondness for studying personality, so this was fascinating to me.

Of the five boys sitting around my dining room table there was the Peacemaker, the Sports Star, the Entertainer, the Old Man, and the Loyal Friend. It was a study in characterization just listening from the other side of the door.

So today I've been thinking about character and my favorite characters.

So, my question for you is: How do you create believable, interesting, three-dimensional characters? What sources, resources, websites, books, charts, or other things do you use when you develop your characters? I'd love to hear some dialogue about how you get those gripping heroes, heroines, and villains.

Nikki Studebaker Barcus


  1. I have to confess my characters are based on people I know well enough to use as models. My protags continue through a series of at least three novels, so I'm not challenged to expand my horizons (so far). I have to admire the authors who have to come up with new characters all the time. I'll be interested to hear their answers to your question, Nikki.

  2. I do shake and bake: I grab one thing from one person and another from someone else and sometimes I just make it all up. This is why people watching is so fun. You can see some interesting things that jump-start character ideas.

  3. My approach? A detailed character sheet, where I describe the character's attributes, their families, their education and employment, their successes and failures, their tastes in food, movies, and music, etc. In fact, recently I thought I needed a space for their T-shirts/bumper stickers.