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Writer’s Tip #12: Know Your Character

writers tipsWhen you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. I’ll point them out. They’ll come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.  Please add comments with your favorite editing fixes.

If your story sounds stilted or fake, the believability of your characters is one of the reasons. Readers continue with a plot mostly on the strength of the characters you’ve introduced them to. Readers don’t like when these new acquaintances act, well, out of character.

That means you must get to know your characters–intimately. Know their favorite colors, movies, songs. Know their morals, educational background, weaknesses and strengths.

Before beginning your novel, write their profile. Not just a few paragraphs, but pages–as many as you need to feel like you’re their best friend. Throw them into situations and see if you can predict how they would act, based on everything that makes them what they are.

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and four ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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2 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #12: Know Your Character

  1. Excellent advice. One of the other qualities that a character needs, in my opinion, is a voice that is true to them and has a distinct tone. I usually base my characters on people I know and then I steal them and plop them into my story. They now have 2 lives, the one they live in the real world and the one they live in my story. People have sometimes told me that I make them uncomfortable and I do, but what I’m really doing is observing how they move and talk, spit and fly. I try to pick up how they hold their body, use their hands, enact all those little foibles that make them unique. I listen to their speech, the tone and the odd expressions they use, where they pause or rush. Knowing these aspects of function is just as important as knowing your character’s birth date and favorite ice cream. And don’t forget their secrets – that’s what drives them – fulfilling the secret dreams and desires, fixing the impulses and regrets.
    Sound like an expert – I’m not.


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