How Much of You is in Your Characters?

Since we’re talking about writing inspiration this month, I wondered how much of you is in your characters? I put an awful lot of me in my teen detective Rae Riley. Like me, she’s quiet, works in a library, likes to figure people out, and worries too much about what people think of her. Of course, Rae is a lot braver at nineteen than I ever was. I also sprinkle a bit of my personality into other characters, like Rae’s aunt, who is a writer.

Some of my characters are people I would like to be. Rae’s grandmother is a very laid-back person, which I am definitely not. It takes something cataclysmic to make Gram worry and I love writing about someone who isn’t like me at all.

Want more character inspiration? Click here. For more on finding inspiration for our stories, check out this article on The Write Conversation.

I’d love to hear how much of you is in your characters.

Portraits for NaNoWriMo

As you work on your first draft for NaNoWriMo, you might run into writer’s block or at least a snag. If that problem concerns creating a character, check out these portraits for NaNoWriMo that I’ve selected. When I’m looking for a new character, I need a face that captures my attention and makes me wonder about a personality that might fit with it. If one of these portraits inspires a character, let me know!

I like the expression on the girl’s face. She’s either watching something or daydreaming. Either way, the portrait gives you a sense of the mind behind the face.

Maybe a good heroine for a historical or fantasy story?

For more character portraits for NaNoWriMo, click here.

NaNoWriMo Prompts for Characters

If you need NaNoWriMo prompts for characters, look no further! If I need a character who has more than a walk-on part, I also need a face I can see clearly to go with this character. If your creative spark has dimmed to a cinder and you need a few more characters, check out the gallery of portraits from Pixabay. You may rekindle your inspiration!

I love the expression on this little guy’s face.
I find this face intriguing. He could fill in for Gandalf.

For more prompts for characters, click here. Where do you find inspiration for characters?

Manage Minor Characters

Writers also double as casting directors. We ransack our imaginations and experiences for characters, hoping to match them to the perfect plot. We spend a huge amount of time shaping the main and major characters, creating backstories and constructing arcs for them (not arks, unless you’re writing Biblical stories). But minor characters are important too. I’ve found that’s true especially in cozy mysteries. One of the hallmarks of a cozy mystery is the enclosed community in which it takes place. It can be a small town, small business, or some kind of club, any group that consists of a limited amount of people. Adding colorful and fun minor characters spices the mystery and ensures that my setting feels real and isn’t just populated with a detective and suspects. To manage minor characters, I divide them into two categories: supporting and walk-on.

Supporting Characters

I classify characters as supporting ones if their function is to further the plot. In my YA mystery short story, “A Rose from the Ashes”, I needed to establish some backstory. I had my main character Rae discuss a mysterious fire and the disappearance of a woman with Barb, the director of the library in which Rae works. When I wanted to introduce a new character and didn’t have the word count or time to create a new scene, I made him Barb’s boyfriend. That gave him an excuse to come to the library and run into Rae. In both cases, Barb helped propel the plot.

Walk-On Characters

Walk-on characters don’t have to do more than help the reader feel like the story is operating in a real place. If I only write about Rae and Barb when I have a scene at the library, it gives the impression that they are the only employees, which would be atypical. I mention a few other employees by name as Rae works her shift to make the main branch of the Marlin County Library seem real. Since the library is located in a small town within a rural county, Rae knows most of the people who come into the library by name. I can write something as simple as, “I had to cut short my conversation with my cousin as Mrs. Zollars staggered up to the desk with her usual load of romance novels”, to give my novel the small-town atmosphere it needs.

Click here for a post on how to flesh out minor characters.

Readers, what stories have you read that had great minor characters? Writers, how do you manage minor characters?

Thumbnail Sketch for a Mythical Character

A thumbnail sketch for a mythical character presents so many possibilities. Is it a sentient being from a civilization? Or an animal? Does it live in our world or a fantasy world?

If the character is an animal, my sketch is:

Loyal, protective guardian

If the character is an intelligent being, my sketch is:

No-nonsense, determined ruler or soldier

What sketch can you come up with for this mythical character?

For more fantasy prompts, click here.

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