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Writing Compelling Characters

Okay, today is the day of Elana Johnson’s great blogging experiment. Don’t know who Elana is? Shame on you. Get over to her blog and find out, because she’s like nineteen different kinds of awesome–AND she’s a WriteOnCon girl. What more could you want than that?

And so, today we’re all blogging on the same topic. That means it’s time for me to tell you how to write a compelling character.

Except I can’t.

“Wait? What?” you ask.

That’s right, internet. I can’t tell you how to write a compelling character, because here’s the sich:

Compelling* characters  have to come from what you know–not me. Basically, it’s all about using real life traits you see in people you interact with-and then give them a motivation for being that way.

Okay, for example–does the girl behind the burrito counter wear way too much makeup? Well, write her into your book, but make it so she wears leather mini-skirts and crooked lip liner–because she moonlights as a stripper to pay the bills even though she has a secret desire to be the best damn burrito chef on the planet. (And now I will never look at a burrito the same way again.)

In real life, people aren’t all that interesting until you get to know them, so that’s what you need to do with your characters. Don’t bore us with the boring generic details. It’s your job to sprinkle just enough awesome in there to make me think your characters and I could be friends.

Now, I have to know–what makes YOU a compelling character?

*Every time I type out any form of the word “compel” I think about the Vampire Diaries, then I think about Damon. Then I swoon for a while–that’s why this blog post took me six hours to write.

Carolina Valdez Miller

Thursday 30th of September 2010

Hahahahaha! That's awesome. I shall endeavor to keep the boring out of my character creation. And now I want a burrito.


Sunday 26th of September 2010

I agree that people are all fascinating once you get to know them, and characters are the same way.

Great post!


Sunday 26th of September 2010

Love the post. Compelling characters are rounded - no hot super hero type need apply unless he has a problem with the way his bulge bulges and only got his powers thanks to an uncharacteristically kind action.

Nicole Zoltack

Sunday 26th of September 2010

lol I used to be a Stefan fan but now I'm totally Damon. Anyhow, people-gawking is one of my favorite pastimes. You can see some interesting characters that make great fodder for books.

Aimee Walker

Saturday 25th of September 2010 was 15 years ago, McDonald's in Milpitas CA, the womsn behind the counter had huge drawn on eyebrows that mimicked the golden arches. Inhuman. Never forgot it.

Jamie Harrington

Saturday 25th of September 2010

@Aimee Walker, PLEASE tell me she made it into a book!