Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Character Traits Everywhere!

When I was in my wanting-to-be-a-writer phase, I remember doing a lot of research about how to start a novel. I have some "how-to" books that were helpful, and I read a lot of articles online. Then I discovered blogs. I learned a lot over a long period of time, but one thing stood out like a neon light: You must create memorable characters.

And I thought Hmmm, how am I going to do that? I mean, the advice was dead-on. Memorable characters are a common throughout every single book that I've ever loved. My current favorite character is Katniss from The Hunger Games. I love the fact that she is a survivor, that she was able to use her skills and intelligence to outsmart the other contestants and the government.

So, how do you go about coming up with an amazing character like that? Well, one of the things I've learned is to steal traits from people you know. Now don't make one of your characters a thinly-veiled carbon copy of someone you are close to. That could just start a huge argument if they happen to read your book and recognize themselves. Just pick a few traits and mannerisms from several different people and mix them into a new person of your doing.

You can even find traits from people you don't know by watching movies, t.v. shows, and the news. For instance, I love the t.v. show Monk. In case you haven't heard of it, the main character was a private investigator with major OCD issues. He had to have an assistant follow him everywhere, and one of the things he always had her do was to give him a wipe whenever he was forced to shake someone's hand or touch something. Talk about a weird trait.

And don't forget to use yourself! Who knows you better than you? (Does that make sense???) I know all of my own hopes, desires, fears, dislikes, and what have you. Since you are so intimately familiar with what makes you tick, why not use a few of those things to liven up a character? One of the things my mc shares with me is a fierce sense of protectiveness. I'm like that in real life toward my children and anyone else who is close to me, so that was a natural thing to add to my mc.

So, where have you picked up character traits from? Are your characters a mixture of a lot of different people, or do you have a different method of creating them?


  1. I pick them up all over. From friends, books, movies, there is me in all of them I think. I think Monk is a great character! I've had some with OCD issues too. I also pick traits that I would never have, so I can experience it through my characters. Why not right?


  2. I'm a natural people watcher so I pick up small traits, figures of speech, mannerisms etc.. from everything, tv reality shows are the best!! LOL

    Great Post

  3. I guess I never really thought about it. I just throw a person with a certain character profile into a situation and watch what happens. It usually surprises me more than anything:)

  4. I wish I'd thought more about character traits before writing my first novel! I think my characters picked up things that worked for them, but I will definitely try to be MORE aware of this while I'm editing and in future writing projects. It'll make revisions much easier :-) (For instance, I accidentally have two characters who tug on their ears in what I'm currently editing... One when nervous and one when lying. Woops!)

  5. Erica - I've tried to do the same thing.

    Kristi - I think it's actually fun doing that:)

    Tina Lynn - I haven't tried that yet. Maybe when I get a little more experience I can do that.

    Sara - It's good that you caught that early!

  6. I think this is where my psyc degree and jobs have benefited me some, especially with coming up with backstories on why my characters have developed certain traits. But I do also use people I know or have met in my life.

  7. I like this post. I actually choose character traits from an unlikely source; a teddybear. You see, I never really outgrew my teddybear and I sleep with her still. When I'm having difficulty or an exceptionally good day or just need to have a conversation with someone of my own level of intelligence, I discuss it with my teddybear.

    Now, before you go thinking I am completely insane, consider this. Don't you have similar conversations in your head? Aren't your thoughts sometimes centered around whatever the moment holds? My conversations with my teddybear are nothing more than the conversations in my head. If I want to see how a situation would play out if I did something differently, this is where I go.

    By the way, I have a prize for you at my home on the web. Just cruise on over and pick up your One Lovely Blog Award. And thanks for all your intriguing posts. ~ Yaya
    Yaya's Home

  8. Roni - I wish I had that kind of degree to help me out, but I have met a lot of interesting people when I was still teaching.

    Yaya - No, I don't think that's weird at all. Writers have to do whatever it takes to come up with their material. I say go for it:) And thank you so much for the award!

  9. Yeah, I'd say I pick up my character traits from all over. And then as I write my characters sometimes the things they say or do make me realize more of their character as well. As long as they have a few flaws they seem more realistic and alive.

  10. Kasie - I forgot to mention flaws! Yes, they are vital to make characters more interesting and believable.