Creating Unforgettable Characters, Part 1

How to create unforgettable characters like Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.Without unforgettable characters in a story, do you lose interest? I do. But how do you create these characters?

Today begins a series on that topic.

Let’s get real, whether we do it consciously or unconsciously, we want to connect with story characters. We want to discover something about them that we share–their life goals, ethnicity, age, life experience, etc.

This shared connection draws us into the story and helps us care about what happens to the characters.

To Create Unforgettable Characters Give Them Depth

Humans are three dimensional beings—spirit, soul, and body. But we often fail to show all three dimensions in our story.

So, let’s start by analyzing your fiction work in progress (WIP). [Read more…]

Who’s the big bad wolf in your story?

Big bad wolf chasing 3 little pigsWhat was the big bad wolf’s goal in the story of the 3 little pigs?

To have dinner. He needed to eat and the 3 pigs met the bill. The wolf was doing what came naturally to him.

There was nothing evil about eating the pigs, but of course to the pigs, who stood to lose their lives, the wolf was evil.

At the heart of every story is a protagonist with a goal. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, just that it is essential to the character and without reaching it he/she suffers great loss—physical death being the ultimate loss.

In the case of the wolf and the three pigs, each faced the same loss if they didn’t meet their goal—death.

What would the story have been like if the wolf told it? [Read more…]

A Writing Prompt to Spur Your Creativity


We all know writing every day helps you improve as a writer. But maybe you aren’t working on any project in particular right now, so here’s a picture to prompt your creativity for today’s writing.

  • How can you apply this picture to a verse of Scripture for a devotional?
  • What opportunity or obstacle would this doorway present to a protagonist, to an antagonist in your next fiction book?
  • How could you use this doorway as a lead-in for a personal experience article?

Now set a timer for 15 minutes, put on some music if you like, and then sit down at your laptop or take up paper and pencil and just start writing. Don’t stop until that timer dings.

Whatever genre you write, let your imagination skip, leap, and frolic through this doorway.

When you’re done, share the first sentence or two (or three) of your blurb in the comments so we can give each other feedback. I’ll share my first line later on today.

5 Questions for Character Growth

Readers want to see character growth and change through the course of the story. This is the character arc of your story. Character growth can be as simple as having your heroine realize she doesn’t need a man in her life to be happy, or as complex as overcoming the childhood trauma of abuse.

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself either before you begin to write or during.

  • What is my protagonist’s/antagonist’s overall goal in the story?
  • What change in my characters do I want to make happen as she/he journeys toward the goal?
  • What obstacles can I throw in the way to help my character grow? These can be internal or external.
  • What is the character’s goal in this scene?
  • How does the conflict in this scene affect change in my character?

As in life, it usually isn’t any one thing, but a combination of happenings that bring about change/growth in our lives. So it is with your story characters. These five questions will get you on your way to creating characters readers can connect with.

I highly recommend Nancy Kress’s book Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint. Check the link to the right for more information (affiliate link).

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013


Use Art to Spur Your Creativity

fire escapeTake a look at the picture above. What’s the first thing that comes into your mind? Danger? A bygone era? What ever your thought was, the fact is the picture triggered that thought. That is the creativity of your mind in action.

Now think about how you can use what’s in this photo in your work in progress.

  • Can the building serve as a location for one of my scenes? Where is this, what is this, what did it used to be?
  • Can your protagonist elude capture by climbing up the fire escape? Climbing down?
  • Was your antagonist once trapped here as child? If so, how? As a kidnap victim? Was the building on fire? Was she/he homeless?
  • What would your antagonist and protagonist think about this building? Spend 15 minutes writing in your voice journal for each character.
  • How can I use this building to bring conflict to a scene and my characters?

When you’re stuck on a plot point or feel your story is dragging, step away from your writing and visit a local art gallery or do some web surfing to galleries. Use the pictures to inspire you and spur your creativity.

As you meander through the exhibits, ask yourself the questions above and anything else that comes to mind. What is the potential conflict this setting can bring to my story? Even what appears to you as the most tranquil scene can spark conflict in your character if he/she associates that scene with bad experiences.

Be sure to take along a notebook or digital recorder so you can record your thoughts. Who knows, you might even find the gallery you visit to be a perfect scene location.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013


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