Writing Commandment #1 Know Thy Characters!

What is it about certain books that make us want to come back to them time and time again?
The easiest answer is characters you, as a reader, care about. You weren't the first to give a rat's hind-end either. Chances are, if the reader cares about the characters, then the author did too.
Why? What makes some characters so special that we think about them long after the final chapter?
Somehow along the journey, they became real to us. Real people(or other creatures as the case may be) who are flawed, but still lovable.

So how, as writers, do we create characters this fricking great? Climb into your character's head. Think like she does. Make her believe in things the same way you do, and get those beliefs in order.

And when I say the same way, I'm referring to in a similar manner. Don't funnel all of your beliefs into your fictional character. The reasons for this are numerous and I might tackle them later.

Eye on the prize here, champs.

I can not claim full credit for this exercise since I picked the list up over a year ago from the Best Seller goddess, aka Suzanne Brockmann, in one of her online for writers guides. But I did make up the questions at the end, so I am a little bit cool.

All you have to do is list from most important to least important for Beliefs. Positive values and negative values. The following is the list, in no particular order.

And when I say you, I mean your character. Or if you're super special like me, you can do your own and track the changes.

Beliefs: Rank the most important, i.e. the belief which trumps all others as #1 and so on. #8 may still be important, yet you don't live your life around it, more of a back of the closet type of belief.

1. Family and Relationships
2. Love
3. Health
4. Home and Security
5. Money and Finances
6. Career Choices
7. Patriotism
8. Spirituality

Positive Values: Same deal here. Put the concept/ trait you value most in the #1 slot.
1. Love/relationships/Family
2. Health
3. Security
4. Honesty
5. Intelligence/education
6. Achievement/accomplishment
7. Happiness/fun
8. Comfort
9. Intimacy
10. Success
11. Freedom
12. Contribution
13. Power
14. Passion
15. Creativity
16. Growth
17. Adventure
18. Spirituality

Negative Values: What is the value you will go to extreme lengths to avoid? That goes in the #1 slot
1. Humiliation
2. Fear
3. Guilt
4. Failure
5. Jealousy
6. Rejection
7. Overwhelm
8. Frustration
9. Anger
10. Loneliness

Follow up questions:
Do any of your beliefs seem to conflict? Beliefs can often be found in adages or clichés such as "Money doesn't grow on trees" or "Love stinks." Any adages or clichés you live by? Do you think the priority of your beliefs and values have changed over the years? Why do you think that is? Did the order of the values either positive or negative surprise you at all. Are you ruled more by trying to obtain more positive values in your life, or avoiding the negative ones?


  1. This is a nifty list. I want to see what I come up with for Warlock.

    Of course, that will be after I complete these two editing projects, go through Demon once more, and catch up on my inbox reading. LOL! I'm going to try and get that done in the next two days. We shall see. My kids are trying to push me into an early grave.

  2. I'd be interested in seeing it, too. That Dred Shadowins is quite a character!

    Part of the reason I'm now in trouble with Stellar Timing is that I didn't do this for Noelle and Brennagan. See what happens when we skip foreplay? Nothing good!

  3. Great tool, Jenn. I often interview my characters. This will be a nice addition to my bag of tricks.

  4. We all need a little help sorting out the muddle in our creative brains. As you can tell, I'm a big fan of lists and at least pretending to be organized.

    I'll be doing this every Wednesday for #Writer Wednesday on Twitter so please stop in again Smantha!

  5. This is a good checklist to have on hand.

    Honestly, my characters sort of find me--not the other way around. Sometimes I feel more like I'm chanelling than writing *g*.

    I do get stuck sometimes, and that's usually when I'm trying to make them do what I want them to do instead of giving them the reins.

    Great post, Jenn!


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