Amanda Gernentz Hanson, the author of Something Beautiful, shares with us how she creates her awesome characters. Check out her great writing tips!
Top 10 Writing Tips to Create an Amazing Character
Here’s the thing about writing compelling characters—they are complicated, and messy, and (generally) human. Character creation needs to be well-rounded and consistent in order to work in a story, which is definitely the hardest part. I am a plotter—I can’t fly by the seat of my pants when I’m writing. Therefore, my characters are often mapped out ahead of time, from start to finish. Here’s a general map of how I create characters when I’m writing:
1. Pick a great character name.
I don’t know if all writers feel this way, but I put a lot of stock in names. I do research. I try to plot out family trees. Sometimes, like in the case of Cordelia, one of the main characters in Something Beautiful, I look to other written works, including mythology and Shakespeare. Names mean something, and I think they require a good deal of thought.
2. Consider the family.
A person’s family influences them. It’s as easy as that. You can argue nature versus nurture all you want, but your family shapes you. I always take a character’s family into account, and I usually try to include the family in the story, as well.
3. Plot out the past.
Every story starts somewhere, but what happened before? The past is another thing that shapes how the character ends up. You don’t necessarily need to be explicit with the reader about everything that happened in the past, but know it. Know your character’s beginnings.
4. What’s the relationship status?
Again, this isn’t crucial to the text itself, but know the character’s relationship status. This will help determine what the character’s demeanor might be, who and what is motivating the character, and what the character’s desires might be. Do you have to mention this explicitly? Of course not. But it helps to know the intentions, even if they’re only your intentions.
5. Who are the character’s friends?
Much like the relationship status, a character’s friends are important when it comes to shaping the character. Who would Rory be without Lane, or Blair without Serena, or Spencer, Aria, Hanna, and Emily without each other?
6. What is unique about the appearance?
Now. Hear me out. I don’t always describe my characters appearances in depth because I don’t think it always matters. But each character usually has a defining feature. In Something Beautiful, for example, Declan has green eyes, and Cordelia has colored streaks in her hair. In one of my WIPs, a character has a lime-green snapback that she wears to parties. There’s always something, and that helps define the character.
7. What are the hobbies?
What does the character do for fun? I like thinking about how varied people are in real life, and I try to pick one defining hobby for each of my characters. Declan plays soccer and does musical theater. Cordelia writes. Other characters have ran, and played field hockey, and been avid readers. There’s always something. Find the something that makes them who they are.
8. How does this character fit into the plot?
At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what your character looks like, what they do, who they’re with, and where they’ve been. Now you have to make sure each character fits into the narrative of the story. It’s very rare that characters exist without a purpose—remember that.
9. What is unique about the character that will drive the plot forward?
Building on that note, how does the character fit into the plot in a way that drives it forward? Every character, every scene, every single part of the book should drive the plot forward—that’s always the point. Do if you’re going to create a great character, remember to use them wisely.
10. Remember everyone has flaws.
Here is something that I love about the characters I write—they’re always flawed people. Don’t even get me started on Declan and Cordelia—flawed to the extreme, they are. But that’s what I love about writing. I am a flawed person. Every person I know has flaws. That’s what makes us unique. It’s what makes us human. That’s what makes us interesting, and that’s what’s important for characters.
Are these tips the end-all be-all of advice for writing characters? Of course not! This is just how I map out characters when I’m writing. I hope this was helpful to you!
Happy writing (and reading)!
About the Author:
Amanda Gernentz Hanson has been writing stories since the third grade, when she turned in a five-page story about talking dogs to a local youth arts contest. She is an instructional designer by day and an everything else by night. Amanda is a proud Latina who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Hope College and her Master’s degree in Technical Communication from Minnesota State University. You can find her on the internet at browneyedtwentysomething.com and diverseladybookproject.tumblr.com, and on Twitter and Instagram @amandamariegh. If you see her in the wild, she probably has a book in her purse.
Be sure to check out her awesome debut novel, available now from amazon for $5.99!
Cordelia and Declan have been best friends since they were three years old. By the time they hit middle school, Cordelia—Cord, to Declan—is already feeling the blackness in her life as depression takes hold. Their mutual attraction to each other leads to a serious high school relationship, one with their foundation of friendship at the forefront. Cordelia seems to have her mental health under control. All appears to be well.
However, when Declan starts to accept his own fluid sexuality, it sets something in motion in their lives that is both beautiful and tragic as they learn to love each other for who they are.