Sharp Characters Make Exciting Stories

 It’s easy to get excited about writing a story. We get an idea and start to see a plot… “There’s this kid and he gets to go fishing but he forgets to take along his life jacket and…”

But before you get too far into the story, it’s very important to stop and fill in the picture of who your characters are, where they come from, where they are in the story and how they got there.

1. Describing the characters:

  • Name: Pick a name that goes with your character’s personality. Tough names for tough guys. Nice names for nice guys. Interesting names for interesting guys.
  • Description: Age, height, size, hair color, skin color. Intelligence, athletic ability, musical ability etc. Class in school. Personality—considerate, thinker, action person, animal lover
  • Location: Where does he live? What is it like there? Farmland, dusty and hot? City, crowded and noisy?  What school does he attend? Public, private or homeschooled? What’s his house like—walk through the house in your mind. Picture each room. You might think of a friend’s house or some other place you have visited.
  • Family: Mom and dad? What do they do? How many brothers and sisters? Character’s birth order?

2. Here and Now:

  • How did he get to the time and place of your story?
  • What lead up to the scene you are writing?

For example, decide if a character going fishing was the youngest child in his family and no one paid much attention to him and now his uncle was going to spend a day with him. Can you see how this would make a big difference in the way the story goes? On the other hand if the character was the oldest child in a very poor family and the father kicked him out of bed and made him go fishing so the family could have something for supper…you would have a very different story.

 You should stop and do this background/backstory for each character. It’s so important to have a very clear picture in your mind of what each character is like. If you have details in your mind they will come out in your story. Some things, maybe even most things will be left out. But if you have a blurry image of your characters in your mind, they will be blurry and uninteresting to the readers of your story. Clear mind-pictures of characters makes for exciting stories.