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Creating Characters | Write:Talk

WRITE:TALK is a blog series about the craft of Christian writing.
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Cast Members

Before you start your outline at least a few characters are needed. The main character is usually first. This forces you to make several decisions. The male or female lead is sometimes a tough choice, but I suggest that you use your own gender. It is easier to write in something that resembles your own voice. How old will your MC be? This reflects the target audience. Choose from picture books 1-4, Early Readers 5-7, Middle-grade Readers - 8-12, Young Adult - 13-18, Adult - 19 and up.

Key Element

Main Characters must have one key element: the ability to care. Your MC must care about something. What he cares about can be minor or major. It may be money, fitness, family, or world peace. The important issue is that he cares about it. He should care about it enough that it moves him, even though he may not be aware of it.

"The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

Genesis 2:7

Want To Make Somebody?

The writer gets to do that on paper. What fun! So enjoy the process. Flavor up your characters. I begin with a character list of names with a paragraph for each character.

Four Basic Elements of Any Character

We need labels on our characters so that they are easier to remember. The term wife crystallizes woman. The label of nervous dogcatcher focuses man. So in like manner, we have to label our characters. Four elements that you can use to accomplish this are: Gender, age, vocation, and manner. The first three are obvious enough, but the last one might need more explanation. I think of manner as a dominant impression of the character's personal bearing. You could think of it as a person's individual style or habitual stance. If we say a guy is pushy and brash we are talking about his manner. If a teenager is shy and demure, that is her manner. You can combine the four elements when describing them, such as The young, clumsy mechanic, or the middle-aged sympathetic school teacher.

Using a noun of vocation and combining it with a descriptive adjective gives a writer something predictable to write to. You know in advance how the character is going to behave, what he is likely to say, things he is likely to do. It's a good bet that the absent-minded professor will appear a bit sloppy, and have a pencil and notebook in his pocket with slightly mussed hair. He will speak with good diction, but stumble around looking for his cup of coffee.

Experimentation is great at this point of creating a distinctive character that won't be forgotten. The funny undertaker, the wise-cracking secretary, and the timid policeman will all be memorable in the reader's mind. So play around with this to move away from making cliche stereotypes.


Create a group of 4 characters. Include the 4 elements of a character. Make it a team of 3 that work together, and 1 villain. No stereotypes or cliches are allowed. Send them to me for a comment.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another,"

Proverbs 27:17


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