Write about a character who is ungrateful and selfish.
If you use this prompt, leave a link to your story in the comments below. I’d love to read it!
NaNo is coming! It’s about 20 days away… already. It’s coming up fast and there’s no stopping it.
Some people outline their novels, some people don’t. There are some people who do quick writing exercises or prompts as practice to prep for the upcoming writing streak. Some people don’t.
No matter what you do or don’t do, that’s okay. I personally love to outline and I love to try new things with my characters to get to know them a little better.
So, here’s a fun exercise to do with your characters.
I got this idea from my 15-year-old cousin. She had English homework one night and had to do this for the protagonist of her summer reading book.
I have to admit, I was a bit jealous. I never had fun homework like that.
The idea is to think a bit outside the box and to get to know your characters on a deeper level. To the naked eye, it doesn’t make sense, but to a writer, it’s pretty clever.
So, ask yourself this:
Is your protagonist (or any character) more like…
My cousin’s teacher had the class do this on themselves first so they could get a feel for the assignment. My cousin said she was more like “pumpernickel bread” because it’s a funny word. That right there actually sums up her personality. She’s a funny person and can sometimes be a dope. The fact that she immediately thought “pumpernickel” was a funny word and laughed just sums it all up.
With this exercise, you can get to the heart of your characters. It seems silly and random, but you just might learn something new about them.
To me, characters are the most important part of story telling. Without characters, there would no villain, there would be no hero. Therefore, there would be no plot, no conflict.
When you write a novel, you have 200-500 pages (give or take) to delve deep into your characters. Their past, present, and future. Their likes and dislikes, their opinions. Their friends and family. Their motive, anything that makes them tick.
When you write a short story, you don’t have much time to go into that much detail. Not all that detail is exactly needed, depending on what’s going on in your story.
So, how do you develop your characters fully in such a short amount of time?
Step 1. Create your characters as best as you can
If you Google “character chart,” a billion results will come up. (It’s actually a tad over 67 million, but who’s counting?)
There are so many charts out there that ask the basic of basic questions:
And then there’s the obvious… favorite color, food, likes and dislikes, phobias, etc.
Pick a chart or two and fill it out. You’ll probably only use 15% of it, but those things are good to know anyway.
Step 2. Get to know your characters 100%
Talk to your characters. Interview them and get to know them as though you’re meeting a new friend. Write basic flash fiction about them and their background.
Again, not everything you come up with will be known to your readers, but at least you’ll have canon scenarios in your head.
Step 3. Sift through all the information and zero in on the four most important aspects of your characters
Allow your readers to imagine what your characters look like through physical descriptions. Skin color, eye color, hair color and length, height, weight, noticeable birthmarks, etc.
Not all of this will be needed, but if it’s important, add it in. If a birthmark has something to do with the plot, then it needs to be known. If not, it may not be needed at all. But you can still write about it and then edit it out later.
This varies depending on the point of view you use, but for your protagonist, allow your readers to get into their mind. What’s their thought process like? What kinds of decisions do they make? Do they have any outstanding memories or fears that are important to the plot and show how the character came to be?
Now that we know how they think, how do they speak? Do they talk loud or quiet? Do they speak their mind or are they more reserved? Do they think out loud?
What does your character do? Don’t worry about showing your character driving from point A to point B. Just page-break them there and let them do what they need to do.
Characters are hard to put together. They’re complex, just like us. Get to know them as though you’re their mother or father (which you are, kind of). Pick out the important pieces needed to showcase them and get through the conflict of the short story.
If your character is trying to get to school on time for an important test, you don’t need to let the readers know that one of your character’s hobbies is playing video games. Unless, of course, the video games were what made your character late.
It can tie in easily with the story or not at all. And that’s up to you to do decide.
How do you go about developing your short story characters? Do you have anything to add to this? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
We all have issues. We all have quirks. It’s part of what makes us human.
Therefore, our characters should have quirks too.
What exactly is a quirk?
A quirk is an unusual behavior, an out of the ordinary habit. If it was something everyone did, then it wouldn’t exactly be a “quirk.” But I’m not saying no two people can share the same quirk. We all have our likes and dislikes.
But, for the sake of descriptive writing, I’m going to stick with sensory quirks.
And I’m going to talk a lot about myself, so I won’t blame you if you decide to leave now.
What’s a sensory quirk?
I don’t even know if this is a real thing or if I made it up, but I’m going to pretend it is for the sake of this post.
A sensory quirk is just what it sounds like. A quirk that has to do with your senses. Or you could just say you have sensory issues. Because I do. Big time.
A lot of other people might agree with me on this one. I don’t like the feeling of chalk. I don’t like the feeling of it when I scrap it against the pavement or wall. I don’t like how it gets underneath my fingernails.
This is something I used to love. I played with chalk a lot when I was a kid. When I started working in preschools, my appreciation for chalk shrunk. The kids would as me all the time to play chalk with them and I would agree because… Well, that’d just be mean otherwise. I’d hold the chalk in between my index finger and thumb and barely put any pressure on it when coloring.
Why? I don’t even know. There’s just something about the feeling of chalk that makes me cringe.
Others may be able to relate to this one as well, especially if you have young kids. The seams of the socks (or as I call it, “the line across the toes”) are awful. They bother me. I don’t have any explanation why, they just do.
And, I prefer knee socks. I look ridiculous, but I love them. I can wear ankle socks, but I pull them up as far as they can go. They stretch out and then I get holes. (I go through a lot of socks.)
They also feel too loose on me, which is why I think I pull them up so far. I don’t know why that bothers me, but it does.
I don’t like the taste of toothpaste. It’s all gross. I like mint, but even the mint is yucky to me. But it’s something you have to do, so I suck it up.
What really bothers me is the feeling of it on my teeth. I don’t like the feeling of the brush gliding over my teeth and I don’t like the sound it makes in my head. Brushing my teeth is the worst part of my day, every day.
I’ve saved the weirdest for last. I don’t like lettuce. I’m not a huge fan of the taste, but that’s not why. I mean, lettuce doesn’t really have a taste anyway.
No, it’s because of the crunch. Yes, you read that right.
I love everything crunchy. Chips, croutons, graham crackers, regular crackers, anything. But I can’t stand the sound (or the feeling) of lettuce crunching in my mouth. Why? No idea.
A sensory quirk can literally be anything. I mean, if lettuce bothers me, then you can find something ridiculous for your character.
It adds a little more depth to your character and makes them a little more real, as strange as it is.
Do you have any strange quirks? Have you given any to your characters? Let me know in the comments below!
It’s not every day we come across a person who doesn’t have all 5 of their senses. Some people are blind, some are deaf, and some are both. Some people have anosmia (no sense of smell), ageusia (no sense of taste), or both.
I have all my 5 senses, so it’s hard to imagine having only 4 or 3 of those senses. And I’m amazed at the people who go through life without all 5 senses simply. Yes, it’s something they have to do, have to get used to and live with, but we, as human beings, tend to take everything for granted.
If someone is born without, for example, sight or hearing they don’t know how different world could be. They live in the same world but view it differently and they live their lives just like everyone else.
But if someone loses a sense or two throughout the course of their life, whether they’re a teenager or adult, whether it’s from an accident or an illness, losing that can take a toll on a person. It can be a little isolating or even depressing.
And I know all this from people I’ve met in the past, from reading memoirs, and from doing research. Even though I “know it,” that doesn’t mean I understand it. Honestly, I could never understand it, simply because I can’t imagine how it would feel like to not be able to taste anything.
That’s why it’s so important, as writers, to write believable characters.
Why is this important?
When you think of diversity, you tend to think of race or ethnicity, etc. It’s not often we think of a disability, whether it’s physical or mental. People who don’t have all five senses are more common than not.
Not only will you be adding diversity to your characters, but you’ll be writing your story in a whole new way. You can’t describe a telephone ringing when you’re writing a character who can’t hear. Or maybe they have hearing aids and can hear a little, but it’s still not the same.
So, how do you write a character without all 5 senses?
Not without 100% accuracy. Still, there are many ways you can research how to write it all out.
There are many ways to learn about such a thing, just like how you research everything else you don’t know about or don’t understand.
There are some things you can never understand fully, but it doesn’t hurt to do some research and try your best.
Have you written any characters without all 5 senses? How did you go about it? Let me know in the comments below!
Good vs. bad is a common theme everywhere. It’s in novels: your protagonist is “good” and no matter what genre you’re writing in, there’s always a “bad” guy who happens to be the villain of the story, your protagonist’s rival, or simply just someone who is mean and considered “bad” by the readers.
This theme pops up (a little too frequently) in real life as well.
It’s probably one of the more common ones and it’s the broadest because there’s so much you can do with it.
But here’s the thing: Everyone has different opinions, different perspectives. So, who exactly is good and who is bad? Who’s right and who’s wrong?
When you think of a hero, you think “good.” When you think of a villain, you think “bad.” We assume the protagonist is automatically good because they’re the “protagonist.” And we assume the antagonist is bad because they’re in competition with the protagonist.
But what exactly is good and what is bad? Who decides?
What makes a character Good?
Good or nice characters typically have certain traits that include, but are not limited to:
And there’s plenty more, but I could create a whole post on traits alone.
What is the ultimate goal for a good character? They want to help others, save and protect others, etc. They don’t want to help people in order to brag that they did a good deed, either. They simply do something good out of the kindness of their heart and because it’s the right thing to do.
What makes a character Bad?
Similar to the good guy, they’re personality is made up of many traits that allow them to do the evil things they wish.
Like the good guy, there’s more that I could list, but these first popped into my head.
Notice that some traits are the opposite of the good guy’s, but some are the same. For example, brave is a common trait because no matter what you do (evil or not) they need to have the guts to carry through with it. I also put “patient” and “impatient” depending on the type of bad guy. I believe it can go either/or, or just one.
What’s the ultimate goal for any bad guy? They want to get what they want. They try to get that in any way they can whether it’s kidnapping a princess or trying to take over the world, among other ways.
Who is right?
The good guy and the bad guy
A key to creating good guys and bad guys that exist together in the same novel is that they should have a few things in common. One major thing they should have in common is that they both believe they’re the good guy.
Both of their reasons for doing what they do are both right. You yourself might not agree so, but both characters must whole-heartedly believe their the good guy, they’re doing the right thing.
Perspective and Opinion
The author may have the good and bad outlined in their mind as they write the story, but ultimately the reader will decide.
Everyone who reads has a different opinion about what they’ve read. They either like it or don’t like it. They either agree with it or they don’t agree with it. They also have a different perspective. You might think something in the book means one thing, but your friend might interpret it differently. And everyone has a different theory about something.
In other news, I’ve challenged myself to read five books between Sunday, February 19 and Sunday, February 26. Feel free to join me and check out my daily updates on Twitter, Tumblr, and my Bookstagram!
Creating characters for your novels isn’t necessarily an easy task, but it’s important and it can be fun.
We talked a lot about characters this month. There’s a whole lot more to explore when it comes to characters, but I think we covered a decent amount. I’m sure there will be another month when I discuss characters again. (That means, yes. Yes, there will be another character-orientated month.)
So, I’m asking a simple question today. What’s your favorite part about creating characters?
A lot goes into bringing character to life and making them unique from other characters in your novel and other characters from other novels written by other people.
First, there’s the physical description. How long do you spend trying to decide whether or not your protagonist has brown, blonde, or purple hair? Did they get their green eyes from their mother or father? Or maybe from her great-great-aunt?
What kind of clothes do they wear? Do they always try to look presentable or do they just not care? Make-up? Jewelry?
How tall or short are they? Are they a twig or husky? Do they have a huge nose or teeny-tiny ears?
Then, there’s the personality. Are they self-conscious about that huge nose? Or do they not care what others think about them?
Are they nice to everyone or just their close friends? Are they pleasant to be around? Do they have any normal/weird habits or hobbies? What’s their favorite anything? Food, clothes, color, etc.
Third, you have their background story. What’s their family and home life like? Do they have any friends? A large group or just one best friend?
How did they get to where they are today? What kinds of decisions do they make?
Now here’s the important question: do you like to plan your characters out, like I just did above, or do you like free writing and see where they take you?
I think writing characters is so much fun because you can place them in certain worlds and situations that you can’t normally be part of. Your characters are a little piece of you and you live vicariously through them.
So, what’s your favorite part about creating your characters? Let me know in the comments below!
It’s hard to have a good plot without someone to drive your protagonist forward. Often times, that someone happens to be a “bad guy.”
Someone who is not nice, someone who isn’t your protagonist’s number one fan, someone who wants the spotlight for themselves and goes about it the wrong way. There are a lot of reasons a protagonist becomes a protagonist. Often it’s something bad, but sometimes it’s not.
Who is the antagonist?
The antagonist is a character in your novel. Often times they are the “bad guy,” the person the protagonist is trying to stop, the person the readers don’t root for.
However, you have to remember that the antagonist is just as important to the novel as your protagonist is.
There are many different types of antagonists.
There are more types of villains, of course, but those are just a few. You can tell which type of antagonist you’ve created based on their personality, their background, and their motives.
How to create an awesome antagonist
Just like your protagonist, your antagonist should have a story too. Give them a personality, give them a background story. Things that have happened to them in the past may have made them out to be who they are now.
1. Have a motive.
They need to have a motive for why they do what they do. They should be trying to accomplish something for their own benefit, acting on personal desires.
Good motivations can stem from the seven deadly sins, such as greed or envy.
2. Get in the way of the protagonist.
The antagonist’s wants are most often the opposite of the protagonist’s. They may be racing each other, they may be trying to stop each other.
Speaking of envy, some antagonists are jealous of the protagonist and that ends up being a motivation for hate.
3. Be trying to hide something or trying to gain something.
Antagonists should have secrets. They should have a deeper, internal motive for doing what they do.
In turn, they should be trying to gain something. Most antagonists do what they do purely for selfish reasons.
4. Have flaws.
No one is perfect and that includes protagonists and antagonists alike. Some people may believe the antagonist’s motives are their flaw, but there should be character traits that allows the character to stand out, that allows the antagonist to be known as the antagonist.
Antagonists are a character in your story. They should be fleshed out just as much as the other characters in the story.
The only difference is, a villain is someone whose story hasn’t been told.
How do you write antagonists? Do you have any tips to create memorable bad guys? Let me know in the comments below!
Did you enjoy this post? Why don’t you check out Why Does Your Protagonist Matter?
Characters are the heart of your story and the protagonist is everything. The protagonist is the one who drives the story forward, who advances and overcomes the plot, who makes your readers fall in love and want more from you and your cast.
But how do you choose the “right” protagonist? How do you decide which character in your mind is capable of playing the lead role and capturing the hearts of your many readers?
Why does your protagonist matter to the story, to the readers, to you?
Who is the protagonist?
The protagonist can be the hero or main character in your story. They’re the one who’s outcome matters most. There would be no story without them.
How do you choose your protagonist?
Do you have your plot laid out? Okay, now let your characters decide.
You can choose a character to be the center of the story, but the cast will ultimately choose themselves. Like I’ve explained many times before, I originally had George the protagonist of my mystery series. And, while he’s still one of the main characters, the female main character took over and decided to be the protagonist instead.
And the story is much better that way, I have to say.
You may not know your characters until halfway through the story, but the protagonist will present him/herself when the time is right. You’ll soon come to realize which character you’ve been favoring over the others and who makes the important decisions around the plot.
What makes an awesome protagonist awesome?
All characters in a story much have unique personalities making the readers love or hate them. They all must have a goal in mind, but your protagonist must be the one that stands out the most, that matters most to the story.
Give your protagonist a strong goal and allow them to be passionate about it. Maybe they want to save the princess (or prince) from the tower because they were childhood friends and/or they want to marry. Maybe they don’t want to save them from the tower, but they have to anyway for certain reasons.
Protagonists are usually tragic in some way or another. Don’t info-dump to your readers about your protagonist’s second birthday party (well… unless something plot-driven happened on that day, but I’m sure you know what I mean).
However, give your readers a good insight to your protagonist’s life. Their childhood, growing up, what matters most to them in life, what doesn’t matter to them at all, etc. This helps develop their personality as well as their goals in life as they strive to be the spotlight of the story.
But, you must let it all happen naturally. They know what they want.
Their relationship with the antagonist
The antagonist is the “bad guy,” so to speak. There wouldn’t be much of a plot if it weren’t for the dynamic between the protagonist and antagonist.
Whatever the antagonist does should drive the protagonist forward (or backward) in some way or another. The antagonist is one of the reasons the protagonist is going on their journey. Maybe they know each other from the past, maybe they will get to know each other when all is said and done. Or, maybe it’s just a random encounter because something else happened.
Either way, allow the protagonist to know what he/she wants and how they want to accomplish those goals.
Speaking of accomplishing goals, your protagonist should be the one making all the heavy decisions. I’m not saying they can’t ask for help, but they’re the ones driving the plot forward.
If something goes wrong, what will your protagonist do? If the antagoinst does something your protagonist did or didn’t expect, what will he/she do? If there’s a fork in the road and they can’t read a map, what will they do?
Allowing your protagonist to make most of the decisions allows your readers to get to know him/her and get inside their head. It makes the readers say, “I would have done that, too,” or, “Why in the world did he decide to do that? That was a stupid, they’re going to get into trouble!”
It becomes known that the protagonist is in charge of the story and they become relatable to the readers as the protagonist takes his own life, and the life of the other characters, into his own hands.
The more you do that, the more your readers will root for the protagonist to win in the end.
How do you create awesome protagonists? What’s your favorite trait of a good protagonist? Let me know in the comments below!
Did you enjoy this post? Check out the companion post, Antagonists Are People, Too.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that boys and girls are different. We’re different physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I’m a girl and have no idea what goes through the mind of a boy. Boys have no idea what girls go through. We pretend we understand the opposite gender, but we really have no clue.
With that being said, it’s much easier to write in the female point of view if you’re a female yourself.
When I first started writing my mystery series, George Florence, the main protagonist was George himself. It was all in first-person, but some things just weren’t clicking with the rest of the story.
I eventually changed the point of view to third-person with George still in charge, but even that didn’t work out. With the help of my writer’s group, I came to the conclusion that even though George calls the shots for the plot, his colleague, Lilah, wants to tell the story.
I ended up rewriting the whole story, still in third-person, but as Lilah. And it is the best decision I ever made.
Why is it the best decision, though? I think it’s because Lilah’s personality is similar to mine, in certain ways. That, and she’s a girl. I can relate to her more. It’s easier for me to write her thoughts on what’s going on.
That, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that George is a detective and Lilah and I are not…
How to choose which gender your protagonist should be.
It’s easy to choose your own gender because you have that extra knowledge, emotionally, mentally, and physically. But, is it really what’s best for your story?
I chose to write in George’s point of view because I thought that was best for the series. Who wouldn’t want to follow around a fired detective who then decides to become a private investigator in spite of everyone else?
No one, if you can’t get his personality right.
It turned out, gender aside, Lilah is the best fit for my novel because she’s more relatable.
But what if Lilah was the detective and George was the student? George would then be more relatable to myself and everyone else. Then I would have a male protagonist on my hands and how in the world do I write as a 20-something male?
How to write as the opposite gender.
I can’t exactly tell you how to write as the opposite gender, but I can’t tell you how to research the opposite gender. Does that work?
Yeah, let’s skip this one.
How to research the opposite gender.
It’s going to take you a while to write as the opposite gender. It will only get better with practice, but in the end, you’re still a girl, not a boy. Or you’re a boy, not a girl… Either way.
However, you can do the best you can and that’s all anyone really ever asks for.
Read books written in the male point of view if you’re a girl and vice versa. Pay attention to how the author wrote their protagonist. You can learn a lot from seeing what other authors have done, to a certain point.
Talk to people
Ask a family member or friend of the opposite gender about what they would do in a certain situation. Or, just ask them how they felt when they were teenagers, when they first went to college, or any other major life event.
Follow (or don’t follow) stereotypes
When people think of a teenage girl, they think of her standing in front of the mirror for long periods of time checking her hair and fixing her make-up. They’re spending all their money at the mall on new clothes, purses, and the like. Some teenage girls are like that, yes, but not everyone.
For example, I wore jeans every single day, the only day I’ve ever worn make-up in my life was my sister’s wedding, and at the age of 23 I still don’t have a purse. I carry a backpack.
With that said, stereotypes are okay to a point. However, it all depends on one thing.
If your teenage girl doesn’t want to wear make-up when all of your female friends are saying that’s all they cared about, then fine. Your character doesn’t have to wear make-up.
Remember, this is your character. You created him/her. You know what they want and what they don’t want. You know the basic outline of how they think and act.
So, research the opposite gender. It won’t hurt you. In the end, though, just do your best and let your character be him/herself.
How do you write as the opposite gender? Are most of your characters the same gender as you? Let me know in the comments below!