“And when he’d made a whip, he drove those who sold oxen and sheep and doves and the money changers from the temple.”
Jesus wasn’t a character but a real live person who had passionate feelings about the sacredness of the temple and the lost of Jerusalem. He experienced anger. He suffered sorrow and heartbreak. He was alive.
How can we bring our characters alive? What do you aim for when creating them? Gentleness? Spunkiness? Courageousness? Loveliness? They need to have these traits, yes.
We’ve all created exciting and entertaining plots in our novels or at least we hope to. Plots that keep us and our readers shivering with suspense, breathless with the romance between a couple, excited with the new world discovered. Passionate plots that could soar to bestseller lists if it wasn’t for the same old, same old, carbon-copy, boring character who drags through the whole novel.
I insist that it’s the characters who add spice to that brilliant plot!
Do they dance across the written page? Stand out? We’ve been taught they must be likeable and that’s true. We’ve been taught to always give the antagonist a redeeming trait and always make the protagonist sympathetic. Both very much true.
But they must have more than just the above. Let’s look at a few examples:
Cowardice in a job wherein character is bound to fail.
Stephanie is a bail bondperson, goes after the lawbreakers and carries a gun, but when placed in a dangerous position, cringes and hides. She’s a coward. To add to that uniqueness, she has a pet hamster who does nothing but eat and continuously run in his exercise wheel. Still Stephanie never fails to head to his cage, once home, and speak a few words of adoring love. And she lives in a tiny apartment built on the inside to look like a ship. Talk about above and beyond unique! She is.
Tough: Boxer and Private Investigator.
Soft: cooking, pet dog, philosophical
What about Spencer (former boxer) who’s suppose to be tough and rough? After all, he goes after the worst criminals with his pal who would rather shoot than argue. But Spencer has a soft spot for cooking and his pet dog, Pearl, quotes philosophical lines and dates a psychologist. An intriguing combination.
Is she a mystical person?
Or a wannabe mystery lover?
Have you heard about the amateur sleuth who loves mysteries so much she has an all-mystery bookstore and a black cat? Enough said. That spikes a thrilling interest right off the bat!
Fun and Whimsical
A Cat who howls when a murder takes place
How about the former newspaper man who inherited money, solves mysteries, & insists his cat knows when there’s been a murder? Whimsical and fun.
An out-of-work actress who cat-sits to pay the bills
The out-of-work middle-aged woman who cat-sits AND is a sometime actress with bits and pieces she attains when she can. Still attractive, she comes across as rather quiet and perhaps a bit uninteresting. Yet her odd friends and the respect shown her proves there’s more to her than meets the eye.
Items deemed unattractive
What about the smart and young Jupiter, who carries just a little too much weight on his frame? Living in a junkyard with his uncle and aunt, he begins a detective business with two best friends and somehow keeps it both successful and hidden from his uncle. Overweight? A Junkyard? Nice touches.
Young and Idealistic
Christy–young and ambitious–is out to change a strange new world, yet the first time she sees something disgusting, she gets sick. The comparison between her cleanness and youth and the different dirty-poor world she voluntarily enters, sets the reader in prime position for high level entertainment.
Mean and Cruel, yet redeemable
Mr. Scrooge who’d rather freeze than spend a penny? Need we say more about a tight-fisted older man who has not a whit of sympathy inside his cruel heart for anyone or anything? His cruel taunts make him the brunt of jokes behind his back. His biting refusals are sadistically moments of which he takes particular pleasure. We gain no happiness from him, yet we continue to hope for his change and cheer him on. We wait for the time of glorious redemption within his life.
Finally, take a look at your current work in progress.
Is the main character unsurprisingly similar to the last one you wrote?
How can you create him/her to spring from the written page?
Here’s what I did to one of my protagonists:
Tara: turned her from a primary educational teacher to a detective because of the unsolved murder of her older brother. She definitely fit’s the profile (in looks) of a teacher far more than a detective. Yet she drives an SUV and favors casual clothes more than dress-up and suffers from a high-gear imagination which plays havoc with her cases.
Gave her a pet mouse from her mischievous brothers (as a gag gift). Since mice are both curious and smart, carries him (in his tiny cage) to her detective cases and whimsically insists he gives her clues.
Her pet phrase when irritated is “Rattlebones” inherited from her elderly archeologist grandfather who raised her.
What more could I have done with her?
What more could you do with your character?
Happy character building!
Carole Brown’s debut novel is entitled The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman. Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, she enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?
She’d love to connect with you at
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/CaroleBrown.author