Dec 13, 2009

Sizing up the he/she in your novel.

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. Character is a caricature.
–Ernest Hemingway

In my thoughts, I know a soul and with my eyes I see him standing there. But, without the words to paint for you, his acquaintance you’ll never share. –Doree Anderson

1) Setting up the interview.
a) Allow plenty of uninterrupted time. You need to concentrate, observe and document constantly.
b) The setting or meeting place should be comfortable.
1) the couch, kitchen table, the park or the lounge chair on the back porch.
2) supply ambiance with background music and candles.
c) Offer refreshments

Who are you? Who, who are you? –Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey

2) Getting a glimpse into their mind.
a) It’s not just the words they use.
b) hear the passion and tone of voice.
1) does he/she put emphasis on certain words in a sentence, use their hands to highlight their point.
2) are slang words utilized often?

The creations of a great writer are little more than the moods and passions of his own hearts, given surnames and Christian names, and sent to walk the earth. –William Butler Yeats.

3) Picture yourself sitting beside them, what do you see?
a) Document their mannerisms.
1) a hand to their chin, fingers smoothing down a mustache, nervous laughter, eyes roaming.
b) their dress;
1) style, individualism
A) Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink or Annie Hathaway in Prada
c) their features; eyes, hair
1) contacts or glasses, crossed or uneven.
2) dyed hair, long, short, bald, curly or straight.

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him. –Ray Bradbury

4) Where does he/she see them selves in ten years?
a) education
b) employment
1) ambitions
c) marital status
1) family size or dreams of.

Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with them. – Mel Brooks

You know your characters and their stories. Now all you have to do is convince your readers that they’re worth the time to meet.


  1. Wow Doree! I love this. Especially since i was just preparing to dig into a charactor tonight. THanks!

  2. Great reminders, Doree. We know our character's talk to us but do we take the time to dig deeper into what they're really telling us about themselves? I know I'm sometimes guilty of trying to twist a character into someone she's not. I needed this reminder to understand character, not just to report on them.



  4. Hi Doree. My RWA group (LERA) brought this to everyone's attention as recommended reading. What great advice and so appreciated.

    Love Mel Brooks' words of wisdom (the source was a surprise) and the Ray Bradbury quote is among my favorites.

    Laurie G.