Writers: Subscribe and send
in your brief bio and your best writing sample (up to 1200 words
to become a
writer. Find free articles and markets to help you get
published. Readers: Find your favorite authors, anthologies,
and other books.
send in your calls for manuscripts. Find writers and manuscripts
to fill your anthologies.
website is best viewed in IE
Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of
Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting
"If you combined the lyricism of Annie Dillard, the vision of
Aldo Leopold, and the gentle but tough-minded optimism of Frank
McCourt, you might come close to Amy Lou Jenkins.Tom Bissell
author of The Father of All Things
"Sentence by sentence, a joy to
Phillip Lopate, Author of
Anthologies online participates in various affiliate programs and most links
to books and products in articles/anthologies/author or any page offer some
referral payment, pay for click or other reimbursement. The payment is
generally pennies per click or purchase. Anthologies online also runs paid ads.The
Anthologiesonline web site and newsletter are provided on an "as is" basis
without any warranties of any kind and disclaim all warranties, including
of merchantability, non-infringement of third parties' rights, and the
of fitness for particular purpose. No person or organization makes any
warranties about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of
the material, services, software text, graphics and links. Any communication is generally considered to be
How to write believable Characters, part of our
How to Write series
by Jeff Heisler
Find links to more articles
related to write creative fiction at the end of this article
Creating believable characters is an essential element of
fiction. The story rest on your characters shoulders. If they don't
hold up then your story collapses. So how do you make believable
This Article Sponsored By
Writer's Guide to Character Traits: Includes Profiles of Human Behaviors and
A friendly reference" for writers who want "to create
believable characters and need accurate information about personality and
The Writer's Idea Book If you feel as though your
writing is stuck you must get your hands on this book. And if you're not
stuck, you'll be relieved to know that you never have to be. The book is
organized into fours steps: warming up, generating ideas, finding form, and
developing the story (or article) which eases you into a finished piece that
feels fun (because it is!). Heffron has packed 255 pages full of over 400
writing prompts for writers of any genre, or just to play with in your
journal. Play with them for a while and you WILL start calling yourself a
First recognize that different genres of fiction have different needs. A tightly
plotted action or suspense thriller may not need characters fleshed out in
detail as much as a literary novel. Also be aware that the more outlandish your
plot is, the more important character believability becomes. Read any Steven
King book and you'll see this. The reason he can take us on these journeys
through strange and unusual events is his power to create realistic characters.
When we believe the character, we believe what's happening to them.
The process of creating characters is so varied I suspect there are as many
methods as there are authors. As always, take these tips as guidelines- not law.
Every writer must do what works for him or her. These ideas will hopefully serve
as a springboard to get you on your way.Here's how I create my characters:
* Step 1- Consider the story. In general the more my emphasis rest on the plot
of the book, the more my characters need to serve that plot. If the story focus
is more character based then my plot needs to serve the character.
If I need a character that will chase down a killer then I
better design someone who's able to do that. Everything from their build to
their psychology must help them get to the killer. Now it's important not to
make the character a perfect fit. No one is perfect, that's what makes life
interesting. Your characters should have flaws that make it uncomfortable for
them to reach their goal.
For example the character chasing the killer might have a wife and family that
worry about his safety. This creates tension- tension
When constructing a more literary work then the character
should be in mind already, and the plot forms around them. For
example- a coming of age story requires a young character who will
experience events that will shape their life. If you don't have
those elements you don't have a coming of age story- so your plot
must support your character.
* Step 2- Get to know your character. I like to use a form that
looks like an extensive dossier when I create my characters. For
supporting characters the dossier is smaller, but still quite
detailed. Design one for yourself and be sure to include details
• The character's appearance.
• Their habits and mannerisms.
• Their motivations.
• Their past.
• How the character will change in the course of the story.
Don't make the mistake of assuming the bad guys don't need
as much character detail- they do, particularly in motivation. Sure
a story about a killer is suspenseful and scary, but if you have a
killer who murders because he sees his abusive father in every
victim, well- that's a little richer. Remember- the bad guys have
motivations that seem good to them. Hitler thought he was a nice guy-
your bad guy should too.
When you finish your dossier you may want to get creative
with it. I've spent time leafing through old magazines until I find
a picture of someone who reminds me of my character. I cut the
picture out and paste it to the dossier. Somehow this makes the
person seem real in my mind. I can think of them as a human rather
than a construction when I see an actual face.
* Step 3- Interview your character. Don't let your family see you do
this or they'll call the guys with the butterfly nets. You need to
sit down at the keyboard or with your notepad and interview these
characters. Ask them all kinds of questions about the story and
their lives. Why do you need to do this? Because it helps you iron
out the wrinkles in your character's construction. If you interview
your character and they reveal a motivation that just seems weak to
you- great. Now you have a chance to fix it before writing hundreds
* Step 4- Introducing you character. When you finally sit down to
write you'll wonder how you go about introducing your character. A
few points to consider:
• Introduce them at a moment of change in their lives. Don't show
how your character was born and raised in intricate detail- jump
into their lives at the moment something dramatic happens. Instead
of beginning your story "He was born at 2:34am in Lakeview
hospital," you can begin like this- "Marvin had never killed anyone
before. Looking down at the body at his feet he wondered if it would
be the last time." Whoa! Much more interesting, eh?
• "Show, don't tell," still applies. Try to show your character's
nature rather than tell about it. The exception is minor characters.
You can use some short exposition to explain your minor characters
just to get them moving fast. You don't want to spend a large chunk
of text describing the Boy Scout who helps Granny walk across the
street- and your reader doesn't either. Just give enough information
about the kid to get Granny across the street- then go back to
• Some authors go for the bullet approach. Decide if it's right for
you. The bullet approach works like this- when a character is
introduced the story stops briefly and the author spends some time
writing expository information that gives the reader everything they
need to know about the character. This works for some writers- but I
don't recommend it. For one thing fiction has to be hyper-realistic.
In real life we don't get to know people all at once like that. It's
a gradual discovery. Consider your story and consider what other
authors in your genre are doing and decide for yourself.
That's the basic recipe for character creation. I hope it
helps you get your characters off the ground and running. Remember-
characters are the building blocks of story- don't forget to spend
time on them before you dive into your first draft. You'll be glad
Jeff Heisler is a freelance writer and editor of Write Away.
Read more of Jeff's writing articles at