Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Character Ingredients

Helloooooo out there. Finals are DONE! I've survived my first semester of 13 hours in college with 2 kids and a baby bump! I think I may crawl into a cave and hibernate for a few months now. Well, until next semester anyway.

The other night...well, technically, a few weeks ago (I've been meaning to write this post for a while hah) my husband and I were talking about personal flaws and how sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can't change certain things about ourselves. For instance, me . . . I'm a very egocentric, idealistic person (with a lot of other ingredients to go with). Though I work very hard at keeping in touch with my friends and making sure our conversations are not always about me, sometimes I do tend to fall back in old habits. I've read books about being able to change habits in 21 days or being able to change if you really want to, and while I agree to a certain extent (habits can be changed, personalities can not) there's a fine line between habits and personality.

This got me thinking about character development. We write down habits and small blips of personality, and with me, the personality of my character generally takes it's own form once I'm in the process of already writing the story. But sometimes I look and see that I only have a surface personality. I haven't created actual ingredients of the character. Certain things that go into making the character that will always be in that character no matter how much they try and change or what they end up going through, it will be there to some extent in the end. So I started listing a few of my character ingredients for one of my characters:

How to Make a Jessa:

  • 2 1/2 cups of pride
  • 1 3/4 cups of loyalty
  • 1 1/2 cups of stubbornness
  • 1 cup of open-mindedness
  • 1 cup of mental strength
  • 3/4 cup of fear (heights, water, going crazy...)
  • 1/2 cup of toughness
  • 1/4 cup of nervous habits
  • 1/4 cup of ingenuity & positive attitude
  • 2 Tbsp of spitefulness
  • 1 Tbsp of jealousy
  • a dash of mistrust
  • a pinch of romanticism
And there you have it. A very rough draft ingredient list of one of my main characters. Now, I would take this list and separate them into columns and go even more detailed with each ingredient. i.e, the ingredients of the ingredient. I'd put specific examples, whether it's back story or in the story. This is a great tool to fall back on during revisions. I don't know about you, but when I'm revising a story after taking a break from it, sometimes it's easy to lose that initial "voice" or character you were once so involved with. This is a good way to keep on track and stick with the character.

As for my personal ingredient list? Well, it would be much longer and way more complicated. But just as certain dishes go well together, so do certain characters when they are "cooked" right. My husband compliments me: he's the opposite in most physiological things compared to me. He's a safety freak, I'm pretty much a free spirit. He's cynical, I'm positive about everything. He's sensitive, I have a tough wall protecting me. He obsesses about the future, I reminisce about the past. He's logical, I'm idealistic. We're both creative and as for hobbies and the like, we share similarities there. So really, we fit together perfectly! This is a great way to analyze characters in your story to make sure they really do compliment each other (or not if that's what you're going for) and it isn't coming out forced.

Happy holidays and SHINE ON!


  1. Love the family pic. Congrats on the bun in the oven, too. Cute list.

    Lynnette Labelle

  2. Don't know how you're keeping all the balls in the air with those hours, woman, but good for you. And what a gorgeous family photo! I love it.

  3. Thanks for the comps on the pic! And as for how, I think a little insanity is involved....


There was an error in this gadget