Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sitting Down With Your Characters - Guest Post by Leah Meahl

We all know how it goes. Boy. Girl. Best Friend. Villian. Hero. Sidekick. 

One of the best things about writing stories is that we have the luxury of building a person from scratch. But once you’ve chosen the names, the hair and eye color, now it’s time to focus on their inner being. 

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Your characters psyche maybe easy to pinpoint at first, but when you start writing, you’ll realize that some initial ideas lack depth. Here are some ways to sit down with your character and get to know them. 

1 - Do your research 

As with all solid writing, research can go a long way. If your character has a medical condition, physical or mental disability, phobia, etc, you should have a good understanding of what those details involve. How will a mental disability affect one’s thoughts? How would a phobia affect a lifestyle? When you find the nuances of traits you want your characters to have, you may see or understand them better. 

2 - Solidify your image 

You may have a fuzzy idea of what your character looks like, but sometimes it’s better to look them in the eyes. One way to do that is to look up pictures that closely identify your character’s features. Pictures may help you establish vividness and consistency in your descriptions. 

3 - Ask them questions 

Interviewing your characters can be the most fun. After taking a playwriting workshop, I learned that even the most random questions can help you feel out your character. An example of some inquiries are: what genre of books would they read, what alcoholic beverage would they choose to drink, what is their go-to music? Even if these answers aren’t featured in the story, each fact helps mold who they are as a whole. 

4 - Find a real life example 

Some of the best models for characters come from the people around us. When you see the dark spots on a man’s knuckles or the bounce in a child’s step, your descriptions become accurate and relatable. When you have conversations with others, you can write natural dialogue. If someone reminds you of your character, a personality manifests before you. Your job is simply to observe and write down. 

5 - Practice hearing them 

Call me crazy, but we’re writers. Practicing your character’s dialogue out loud can be helpful. Not only does it open up ways for natural speech and choice of words, but also it supports the direction of the scene in your mind. From an editing point of view, reading aloud will confirm the fluidity of your words. So, get in touch with your inner actor and have fun with it! 

We writers have been given the gift of creating by the one and only Creator. He has woven so many beautiful and unique characteristics into His children and now we have the privilege in using His models to help with our own designs. 

If you have a project and a direction in mind, grab a cup of coffee, sit down one of your “friends” and start getting to know them. 

About the Author:

Leah Jordan Meahl is an aspiring author having graduated from North Greenville University concentrating in creative writing. She loves to share her experiences with Jesus in hopes that people will find hope, inspiration, and blessings while growing in a deeper relationship with Him. She helps people see God at work through her blog at On the side, she also has a love for the theater as an actor and singer. In her spare time, she likes to drink coffee while diving into a captivating story. 

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Thanks for stopping by, Leah!
Readers: What's your favorite way to create characters? Do you have any tips to share with us?




  1. Excellent advice! I use a lot of these methods! I'm currently working on the second draft of my YA western dystopia. The main character is from Tennessee so I've had to look up lots of videos of Tennessee accents, and now I'm working on reading his dialogue out loud. Don't want the y'all to be overpowering, but I want his speech patterns to be realistic.

    1. Hi Maddie! When it comes to dialect in dialogue, you only need to reference the slang and accents every now and then. The readers will still pick up on it and read the dialogue with that accent in mind most of the time. You don't want to over do it. ;) (For example: If a character has a habit of dropping the "g" in -ing words, you only need to reflect this in the dialogue occasionally; otherwise, it's too distracting.)

      I'm glad you enjoyed this post!


    2. Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely implement that. My biggest fear was having it come out sounding like Across Five Aprils- a great book, but I could hardly read through all the slang and accent. I think you're right though, readers can keep a voice in mind if you let them know how it sounds up front and then just remind occasionally.

  2. I have to see my major characters as clearly as I do people in reality. Their physical appearance affects their personality. I often feel like a casting director when developing characters.

    1. I love that! I like to use Pinterest to find my characters as well. It helps me to keep their physical appearance in mind as I write, too.

  3. This is too funny!!! When it comes to talking to your characters and they talking to you... I was doing this just the other day. I have had all sorts of these ordeals. Sometimes I'm amazed at how much I can genuinely love somebody I've never met, and never will outside of a book.


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