Friday, September 24, 2010

Trying to Write Great Characters by Allison Knight

I'd like to welcome back Allison Knight.  Allison will be sharing her tips on writing great characters today in our Writing Tip of Week segment.  Welcome, Allison, take it away! 

Novels always involve characters. They can be people, animals, or strange objects that don’t look or act like anything we know. So, how do you go about creating a character, and how do you make them believable?

The answer is simple and then not so simple after all. And, that is not a contradiction. First, to create a character, you have to believe in him, her, or it. You have to know that character, how they act, how they talk, where they come from, what’s happened to them in the past and how they will react to something in the future.

Writers all have special ways to create their characters. Some authors begin to write and as they develop the story the character becomes real in their minds. Others, like me, need help to create a character.

I use a character chart. Other authors use 3x5 cards, some jot notes, others use magazine pictures. The how is not as important as the outcome. To make a character come alive on your page, you have to have that character come alive in your mind.

How do you know when you’ve succeeded? When the character takes over the story. In other words when the character surprises you and does something you didn’t plan or expect. An example - In my first book, Willow Embrace, one of the characters, in fact one of the minor characters, decided to die. She had a heart attack and no matter how I wrote the chapter, she insisted on dying. She had become so real, she did her own thing. Silly? Nope. A real character.

So, learn your characters. Not just eye color, or hair style, but how they feel about the color of their eyes, the reason they wear the hair style they do, and what has happened to them in the past to make them the way they are. We, the reader, don’t need to know - unless it affects the story. But, you the author need to know so that real characters dance across the pages of your book.

Award winning author, Allison Knight began her writing career like many other authors. She read a book she didn’t like and knew she could do a better job. She grabbed paper and typewriter (computers were available back then) and announced she was going to write a book. Her children hooted with laughter.

“Yeh, Mom, when cows fly,” her daughter declared.

She took classes, joined a critique group and RWA, and wrote, rewrote and wrote some more.

When her first book sold, she came home from her teaching job to find a stuffed toy cow rotating from the ceiling fan in the family room. It seemed - “Cows did fly!”

Since that time, Allison has written and published seventeen romances with her latest medieval romance released in August. She has a valentine novella coming out in February. Because she loves to share her knowledge and her love of romance novels she often blogs with other authors. She also loves to talk about the growing digital market.

You can find her at or on her blog


Redameter said...

Writing characters is fun. My characters come first to me, always have. I don't take note except on the color of eyes and hair sometimes. I usually know them pretty well by the time I write them. I'm one of those plays in my head like a movie first.

Nice article. I love hearing how different writers do things. It is a learning experience all the time.