Tag Archives: characterization


The finest birthday cake I’ve ever had, bar none. Thanks, Tami!

(Hereby I move a bit closer to posting purely about writing as I add a subcategory “characterization” to my category list. Ahem.)

As you may guess from the picture above, I recently turned 70. My birthday is September 3rd, but the cake was presented at a party last Saturday. That doesn’t mean anything, but I like to hit keys. A few years ago I joined Facebook. At first, I had no idea what to do with it. Now, I do the same things over and over. One of those things is to follow various French Ex-Pat pages and groups, but that doesn’t mean anything in the context of this post. The other thing that I do is keep in touch with people, some of whom I have seen very seldom, if at all, in decades. I mean my old friends from the Tiffin Columbian High School Class of ’67. I have seen some of them a few times, and a couple of years ago I attended our 50th class reunion. It was cool. Not only did I get to reacquaint myself with old friends, but we got a tour of the high school from the current principal. It’s a mid-century masterpiece of architecture, and no wonder I always liked the building. But, that doesn’t mean anything just now, either.

What does mean something is that, having re-connected with my class, I have discovered that I still like the same people, for pretty much the same reasons. I’ve never disliked anybody in my class (our school wasn’t as clique infested as some) but those I was indifferent about then, I’m indifferent about now. Which seems to me to indicate that, here it is, folks, a person’s character is reasonably consistent over their lifetime. The jokers (including me) are still jokers half a century on, the studious ones are still studious, the good old boys and girls are still good old boys and girls, and I could actually probably name every classmate and expound on how they haven’t changed much.

Well, some of them have ceased to exist. I guess that’s a pretty big change, but for the rest of us, we still are pretty much who we were at 17 and 18 years old. (We graduated on 11 June 1967, so it’s pretty much half and half.) Which further, it seems to me, points out the importance of knowing the backstory for each of your characters. I write backstory for every character that has anything significant to say. Most of the characters in any story are nameless, and say nothing, but they’re there supporting the principal cast and helping to move the story along. Them I don’t write a history for. But everyone else, even fairly minor characters, I, at least, know where they’re coming from, villains included. Because what they were at eighteen is what they are at forty, or whatever, and knowing what they did in high school (so to speak) tells a lot about what they will do on the job.

So, there’s some further advice from me for you: know thine characters’ backgrounds withal!

High school class reunions. And they say there’s no place to get new ideas any more.

Reunion Too

In My High School. I went on to major in Biology at BGSU.
In My High School. I went on to major in Biology at Bowling Green State University.

Being a writer by vocation, I could not do a thing such as attend a class reunion (50th) without connecting everything about the experience to telling lies, er, stories. Fifty years after we graduated, I learned some interesting things. For one thing, my high school was, and is, a mid-century modern masterpiece. See my previous article for details. Also, my old friend Gwen, whose hair I apparently pulled on in a class one year, told me that I seemed taller. I’m not aware of having grown since I was a Senior in High School, but, as I said to her, I have grown in other ways. Out, mostly.

And then there was the shock when Evelyn, who I always liked as a classmate, told me that I “hadn’t changed. Still always laid back.” What? Laid back? I was continuously worried in High School. Was my zipper up? Was I ready for that test? Do my friends really like me? How do I get up the nerve to ask <insert co-ed classmates name here> to a dance? But, according to Evelyn, who I always thought was a decently intelligent girl (she still seems reasonably so) I was “always laid back.” I made a joke (my response to stress) about that being due to a lack of internal energy, but really I was trying to fit that impression into my own impressions of High School life, and my own state of mind during that time.

And thus we have a lesson in Characterization.

Especially if writing for High School age readers, one must remember that your protagonist, or any character, will disagree with everyone else on how they feel or act. In fact, this, I imagine, continues right through one’s life, so that I think that we can expand the target audience and say that any character will disagree with all of the other characters on matters of comportment, feelings, and actions. Okay, you figured that out years ago. Sorry I bothered you. Guess I’ll go back to my little keyboard and punch in some more drab prose . . .

(By the way, is that the proper way to use an ellipsis?) 🙂

See what I mean? My overactive imagination already told me that I’m not saying anything that anyone else hasn’t figured out in their twenties. So, I’m nervous about even posting this article. But, I am going to, because I know that you, dear reader, disagree with me on the value of, well, anything. Something to keep in mind while making up lies about fictional people, huh?


Looking for solid advice on Characterization? Check out The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes, by Sue Viders, Caro LaFefer, and Tami Cowden. Tami Cowden has also written a companion volume for villains: Fallen Heroes: Sixteen Master Villain Archetypes.

Thriller, Anyone?

Paris, Las Vegas, taken in 2013.
Paris, Las Vegas, taken in 2013.

I believe I mentioned some time ago that I was working on a thriller type novel, featuring an FBI agent and a cast of characters to support/impede her in her investigations. I’m not saying more than that, because projects come and projects go, but here are a few things I’ve learned so far about writing this type of story.

It can’t stop moving! They don’t call them “action” films for nothing, do they? Every chapter has to have something in it that involves a threat, a chase, some real danger, an amazing development, something that gives a sense of moving. Forward, sideways, or backwards, that’s up to where the plot is going at this point, but it has to keep moving.

Act one is going to miss a lot of stuff in the first draft. I have a string of notes to myself reminding me to be sure to put in character or development or background or all three in the first part of the book. I’m somewhere in act II, but I don’t expect this to stop happening. I don’t think I can adequately draft the thing until I’ve gotten to “The End” for the first time. I hope that my experiences with previous projects will cut down the total number of revisions somewhat, but there will be plenty, that’s for sure.

Characterization is presented in a lot of little ways. Does she like sushi? Does she hate Game of Thrones? (Example only. GOT does not exist in the world I’m creating.) How does she react in a given situation? How is she with dogs, cats, birds, zoo animals, other drivers, her boss, her co-workers? There is no room in this sort of story for more than minimal descriptions, and even then it has to be through the character’s prejudices. Cool, huh?

As I learn more about this new for me genre, I’ll post more about it. I, for one, am looking forward to reading this book!

Create Memorable Characters: The Secret’s in the Details – Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Breakfast_at_Tiffanys-215x300Create memorable characters using carefully chosen details by Ruth Harris   The 20th Century architect, Mies van der Rohe, designer of iconic contemporary buildings like Crown Hall in Chicago and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC, and classic chairs like the Barcelona and Brno, said: “God is in the details.” His […]

Source: Create Memorable Characters: The Secret’s in the Details – Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris