Saturday, June 30, 2012

Step three - Creating characters

Invite Your Characters Into Your Book!

You know the premise of your story, now it’s time to create a character bible for profiling each of your significant characters. Devote at least a page to each character and include the following:

Name and photograph. (Photo optional), but if you come across a picture of someone in a magazine or an old family photo that reminds you of your character, add it to the page for an effective way to spur creativity and flesh out character.

Physical characteristics. The basics of height, weight, hair and eye color, etc.

Age. Actual birth date if it’s relevant.

Personality traits and their source. For example, is the character lazy because her mother always picked up after her? Does he love baseball because it’s the only game his father ever played with him?

Quirks. Imperfections that make your character human, such as a tendency to hum when nervous; the more original the better.

Goals and motivations. What your character wants and why he or she wants it.

Conflict - list the obstacles, large and small, that the character faces in achieving his goals.

General story line. Draft a three to five sentence summary of the character’s story arc; this will be a character-specific version of your novel summary from step 2.

As an author you always need to know more about your characters than your reader ever sees. This allows you to create a multi-dimensional, internally consistent population of characters for your novel. Remember to keep your character outlines to one page per person so the process doesn’t morph from novel writing to scrapbooking! Although you may need to keep another list of tangibles about your characters, e.g. car, car color, home details, timelines of jobs, etc.

Dear readers,

This step is the most fun. Watching your characters take shape is a rewarding part of the creative process, and critical to the success of your novel. They say there are no new storylines, just new ways of telling them. And for a new way to work, the reader needs to fall in love with your characters!

Have a great week and an exciting fourth! 


Note: The Pyramid approach to novel structure was developed by Jess Lourey,


  1. Writer Dave Here.
    I have done a character bible and I found it very helpful in my writing. I found pictures in mags that matched my character's description and cut them out for reference. I even found a photo that matched the house that features in my novel.
    Look forward to step 4.

    1. Great work, Dave! I haven't done pictures yet, although the character in my new novel looks like a cop on the Mentalist. (the tall redhead, for anyone that watches the show)
      Keeps you focused on them and what they're all about.
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Picking some pictures and writing down everything I thought about each character has really helped me to put things into more order I think. Thanks for the tips. I appreciate them :)

  3. Great! A character bible helps too, to keep track of things about your characters you may need later in the
    story. Hard to remember everything!
    Happy and safe fourth,

  4. Before I get started, I use the character chart by Karen Weisner in her book 30 days to first draft. It is very helpful and a great reference for my series.

    1. I'm glad you found a method that works for you, Marian. I'm a big fan of finding what works for me and I thought this would be an easy method. So far, I've been pretty resistant to structure. Finding that it would be helpful to have some!
      Thanks for visiting. Happy fourth,

  5. Hey, Marla.

    Great blog posts. I do this with my characters, though I did pick up a few tips I hadn't done.

    I gotta admit, I do love creating characters; I've got a real soft spot for them.

    ~ Roux Roux ~

    1. Roux, your love of creating characters will assure you a super book! No matter how great the plot,
      the characters tell the story! Just like so many movies we see; without the lead actors the show would
      not have worked!
      Thanks for visiting and happy Fourth!

  6. My books are entirely character led and I have a VERY clear picture in my head of what my characters look, act and think like. This can be problematic when I assume the reader knows something I know :)

    I use Stixy as a notice board. I find pictures, write timelines, character outlines. Save documents, character traits, details of peripheral characters, all kinds. I even pout my own paintings on there if they're relevant.

    It's just a character bible online. It means I can be lazy about writing and cutting pictures out.

    This was a fabulous article, thank you for sharing

    1. Thanks for the tip! I'll have to check that out. I recently started using Dropbox so I could work on my novel on both computers. Slowly coming into the technical age!
      Thanks for visiting, Nephylim!
      Have a nice summer.

  7. Great post! I love the idea of finding photos that closely resemble your characters and pasting it by their descriptions. My notes for characters are always more detailed than the reader ever sees because I want to know them inside-out before writing their story. The same thing goes for the story. I may research one detail for hours, only to use one sentence of the information in the book. The internet has made this process so much easier!

    1. Thanks, Deanna!
      I loved that Idea too. And the character bible is an idea I will use for my 3rd book, which I'm just starting. You're right about research. So often we get so much more than we have to use!
      NIce to meet you,


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