Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Best of Characterization

Missy here. It’s 1:59 a.m. Tuesday, and I’ve been thinking… (Sounds dangerous, doesn’t it?) :)

I’ve been thinking about writing characters. And about picking one thing that’s most important, wondering what it would be. Such a tough decision, because there are so many things that are important when developing characters. How can I pick one?

Well, let’s all pretend for a moment that we have to pick. Our lives depend on it. So, what one thing would you say you absolutely have to have in your characters?

Likable? Sympathetic? Strong? Funny? A go-getter? A man/woman with a mission (goal)? Handsome/pretty? Flawed? One who acts, not reacts? Well-rounded? Torn by conflict? Facing divided loyalties?

To be honest, when I started writing this blog, I had no idea which to choose! I was hoping inspiration would strike as I wrote. Well, I think it did. I started to think about all the emails and letters I’ve received from readers. So many people mentioned situations in their own lives that were similar to the lives of the characters--and they said it touched them to see how the characters dealt with the problems.

So… they liked characters they could relate to, could identify with. And they liked that the characters persevered, learned, and changed into the people God wants them to be.

Is that two things? They can identify with the characters, yet they want to strive to be more the person God has called them to be, like the characters did. Okay, so maybe I’ve cheated. But I nominate TWO things that are most important for characters: They’re relatable and they grow.

So what do you nominate for most important in a character?


  1. How fun, Missy....I think for me, in my writing I've found they have to have a sense of humor and they have to have good know, be good at the core--even though they don't always act that way, because they don't realize it.

  2. Great post, Missy.

    I LOVE an angry character turned soft. I LOVE a character who inspires others. The few who've read my work (I'm unpubbed) said my character inspired them.

    So, I'd say they related with the character, which I think is very important.

    When I read, I want to FEEL what the character is going through, but I want it to end happily because I'm feeling the emotions right along with the character.

    BUT, I do have to say, I love a character who can KICK BUTT too....Oh, and have a few super powers is always fun **smile** I know those aren't exactly traits, but I still like 'em.

  3. In order for me to like a character they either must have integrity or grow into it. At least - the main characters. Not necessarily the villians or the subcharacters. Like Lynn, I like to see a character, especially a tough hero, turn soft - although I guess that still is the growth you mentioned.

  4. Yeah, we like to see tough guys turn soft for their women (although we know they can still jump in to protect as needed) :). And we like to see a heroine who can take care of herself (kick butt if needed, as Lynn said) but who has the love of the hero to help her along anyway.


  5. Good to the core and integrity are two others mentioned. Very important! That's what we want to see in people we associate with in real life. So we want our characters to be someone we'd like to know. Someone we can trust.

  6. When I finished your post, the first thing I thought of was integrity. I'm glad others (Jennifer) want that as well.

    There are so many traits that can add to the beauty of a man but without that integrity, he's not very pretty.

  7. So we have another vote for integrity!

    So how do we show integrity in our characters?


  8. Missy, I guess I would have to say likeabilty, because if the reader doesn't like the character they won't care what happens to them. And if they don't care, well, why read the book?

    Great points, thanks Missy.