Six Tips for Creating More Lifelike Story Characters

Working on my first humorous novel, I started with a single character. I followed suggestions in writers' reference books for developing story characters. Then, still dissatisfied with my results, I began to explore other ways to make my characters more lifelike and included those strategies below.

1. Find your character's astrological sign and its corresponding description. How closely does that description match your character and his or her ways and tendencies?

2. Look in joke books for short anecdotes/short stories. Do any of the people in those anecdotes match or help to clarify your character(s) or ideas? Can you expand the character's problem(s) and action(s)?

3. Discover ways in which your character matches (or doesn't) a given stereotype. For example, are attractive women always thin and blond? Are sheriffs and police always honest? Are politicians always corrupt and self-serving? How does your character go against the grain and how does that tendency help or hinder his or her efforts in solving a problem?

4. Consider creating "turn-coat" characters, such as actress-turned-robber, professor-turned-miner, doctor-turned-scuba diver, school guard-turned-airline pilot. What gets a given character into the most trouble in the first place, his/her "old" or "new" occupation? How does the character set himself or herself up?

5. Has your character resolved to change his or her ways as a result of surviving an accident, catastrophe, ruinous divorce or love affair? Does your character take a turn for the worse, and if so, why or why not?

6. In what way or ways does your character resemble his or her pet or friend or sibling? How do those things enhance or complicate his or her problems in your story?

Dorothy Zjawin is working on her first humorous novel and adding ideas to her website,

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