What do we mean by ‘Character Building’?

Blog June 2021

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

As my novel takes shape (slowly), I am still enjoying ‘meeting’ new characters. This is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of writing. It feels like making a new friend who will accompany you on a journey. Of course, this may be a short journey with minor characters but some of the more central figures may be joining you for the rest of the story; giving you chance to get to know them well. Is she the sort of person you would trust with your password, is he the sort of person you would trust with your daughter?

With every written word you are inviting the reader to come along on this journey so you must keep them safe too. You don’t want them to be disappointed when a character does something that doesn’t seem likely, unless that’s a deliberate ploy to shock them.

They, too, will feel for the characters and try to understand what makes them ‘tick’. That makes it vitally important that you know. Why is that character so loud and bossy. Is he just a bully or is he covering up some insecurity? Is she really just very shy or is she hiding some secret behind that coy expression?

The last character I introduced was an ex-wife. We didn’t know her when she was married but we have heard the husband’s side of the story. We meet her as she sits brushing her hair at the mirror and reflecting on where life is taking her. Was she really the victim of an unfaithful husband or the villain who had got what she deserved?

Now I have another newcomer in which to invest some thought. She is young and pretty and I might give her freckles but don’t get too fond of her because, sadly, she won’t be with us for long as she’s heading towards an early death in a car crash that will have repercussions many years down the road for a number of the central characters.

I will share with you a few more musings as the shape of this work comes into focus and hopefully inspire you to start thinking how you could build a character of your own and enjoy getting to know them.

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  1. That’s piqued my curiosity, Wendy…
    I’m in the process of re-thinking my ‘practice novel’ and need to rethink my main characters and their relationship. Looking back at my original ‘character sheets’ I seem to have strayed from my first ideas (without, of course, updating my templates. Time to think again – I look forward to your subsequent posts.


    1. Thanks cathy. I’ve never been organised enough to have character sheets. I applaud your effort, it must save so much time checking back and avoid the pitfall of the character who has different features at different points in the book. We all dread the vegetarian in chapter 1 who is chewing hungry at her bacon sandwich by chapter 3

      Liked by 1 person

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