Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Name, Age and Height, Please!: A Guest Post By Karen M. Hanks

I first met Karen on Twitter- yet another social media success story!  Supportive, funny, and engaging, I was excited and thrilled when she offered to "blog-swap" as part of my blog tour week.  You can find my post on self-editing on her blog here.  I know you'll be as enamored of her as I am...

Whether I see it written by fellow writers online, hear it from the mouths of bestselling authors during seminars I’ve attended, or read about it in my studies, I keep hearing the same thing again and again: let your characters determine your plot, not the other way around.

If you establish well rounded and detailed characters from the get go, you should find that the pieces of your story will fall together beautifully, all because you will be well tuned with how your character would behave in every way, in every scenario.

So how do you take your characters from basic to dynamic? Here are some easy exercises that will help with their development:

Create a character profile
Think of a character profile like a patient form that you fill out at the doctor’s office; it’s a quick and easy way to write out many of the key and important details. Many writers will keep files on their characters and find these profiles a quick and easy reference throughout their writing. 

Some helpful details to determine could be:

·        Name

·        Detailed physical description
·        Ethnicity

·        Educational background
·        Family history
·        Personality traits
·        Flaws
·        Speech habits

Put your character in hot water
Has your character just been caught cheating on a test? Perhaps they’re receiving a parking ticket as they come out of a shop. Put your character in a situation of high stress and write out how they would react with those around them. This well help you see and hear them, allowing you to better understand and relate to them.

Conduct an interview with your character
Once you’ve gotten a feel for how your character interacts with others, sit down and conduct a full on interview with them.  I know, I know, you’re probably thinking “But,uh, how can I conduct an interview with a fictional character?” It’s actually quite a bit of fun to do. Create a scene where, if you were in your book, you would meet with your character for a chat; it could be a coffee shop, a bar, or wherever you see fit. Make note of the tone of their voice, the way they move their body, and how they show their emotions; anything that can lend to a better overall view of them as a character. 

Try asking questions such as:

·        What do you do for a living?

·        What is your greatest fear?
·        What would you change about yourself if you could?

·        What do you want out of life?
·        What is your favorite food? Why?

Remember to have fun with these and hopefully you will find yourself with characters that are not only dynamic, but that will help guide you along through your story.

Happy writing!


Karen M. Hanks is currently writing her first romantic suspense novel while working towards a certificate in Creative Writing at her local university. When she's not writing into the wee hours of the night, you can usually find Karen daydreaming about Paris, playing the piano for the small audience of her husband and dog, or curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. You can connect with Karen via Twitter at @KarenMHanks or read more of her ramblings over at

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