Category Archives: Character

Three Characters from Harry Potter Movies

How J.K. Rowling Describes Unforgettable Characters (With Examples)

When J.K. Rowling introduces new Characters…

…you can visualize them almost instantly.

  • Lightning bolt scar.
  • Hand-me down robes.
  • A mane of bushy, brown hair.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, excells at writing unforgettable physical descriptions of her characters. I want to show you the magic behind her technique. 

Read this, and you will be able to create your own vivid characters in just a few short strokes of your writing quill…

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Darth Vader's Backstory

How to Write the Perfect Backstory for Any Character

He was weak…

…because he had no history.

It took me seventeen rewrites (and one editor) before this dawned on me.

The reason my readers could not get immersed in my story – was because my main character had a weak backstory.

I could tell you everything about him…

  • The shape of his face
  • His most powerful values
  • How much money he had in his pocket

But without a backstory, this character was dragging down the entire story. Let me show you how to fix this problem:

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Writing Better Characters: Zootopia’s Clever Lesson on Backstory

I swear, I only saw it for the sloths.

Yet, by the end of the first two scenes, I had already learned more than enough from Zootopia (2016) to pack up the popcorn, leave the theater, and write this post.

I mean, I didn’t. I stayed for the sloths.

My point is Zootopia is a highly accessible movie that uses VERY GOOD DEVICE for writing sympathetic characters and fleshing out their motives. Thrice.

Here’s what I learned (Spoilers Ahoy!):

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Too Many Names? A Tip for Cleaning Up Your Writing

“The Word of Wigaldir calls you!”

“Eternal life in Enga’s arms.”

“Fear not, sinners. Lether the Blessed will bring us to salvation!”

Like the mating calls of jungle birds, voices sailed over our heads, clamoring for our attention. Bristling with energy and humid with sweat, a forest of limbs and bodies slowed our passage through the bazaar. My guide, a woman half-hidden under a shawl, kept one hand tightly wrapped around my wrist as she pulled me through the Tangle. Bodies pressed in around us.

“What does any of this have to do with my stories?” I shouted over the din of people and prophets.

A girl with golden coins covering her eyes singled me out in the Tangle, writhing as she spoke,  “Come, and worship at the altar of Satina with me. The sensual tongue-”

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How Strangers Can Inspire Your Characters

If you are a writer, then you are a whole thesaurus of other things too.You are an artist, an architect, a dreamer, a tactician, a politician, an anthropologist, a historian, the list continues.

Today, none of these roles are your concern, because today, you are a psychologist.

As a writer, you should be obsessed with human behavior, because human behavior is what will drive your characters:

  • Why do people do things?
  • What would make someone act a certain way?
  • Why do these people want this, and what are they willing to do for it?
  • What would change their minds?

By now, you know that motivations are important, but what else is there to creating a good character? How do professional writers do it? How badly do you want to do some homework?

Don’t answer that last one. Let’s get into two different techniques that are going to help you improve your characters:

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What Motivates Your Character (and Is It Enough)?

You have reasons for coming here (you want to learn more about writing, to communicate as one author to another, or maybe you were baited by that tantalizing title). I have a reason for writing this post (to inform you, to give you a place to discuss, and to ensnare you with clickbait! HAH).

The point is, everything you and I do is brought on by some sort of motivation. We are human, we want, and we will always want.

Your characters should also want something (even if they aren’t human). Coming up with a motivation is easy: Is your thief greedy? Is your president obsessed with power? Is your romantic lead drawn to honor?

However, one motivation won’t cut it if you want to make your characters interesting. So what is the secret?

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Posting on Wikipedia? + Character Building Excercise

I read this article from The New Yorker.

In it, Author Philip Roth (The Human Stain) writes an open letter to Wikipedia about the silliness that can ensue when you try to change a page on Wikipedia. You see, there was an error on The Human Stain‘s Wikipedia page, one that Roth wanted to correct. A claim based purely on rumor erroneously explained that Roth was inspired to write his novel by ‘the life of Anatole Broyard’.

Roth disagreed. He says he was inspired by his friend, a Professor of Sociology at Princeton, Melvin Tumin.

Continue reading Posting on Wikipedia? + Character Building Excercise