Creating Characters from
Wright All rights reserved
As much as were
told not to use real people for the basis of
our characters, doing so can yield wonderfully
Many years ago, when working a day job, I came
across an unforgettable young man. He was a natural
joker, friendly, hard worker, and seven feet tall. On the
odd occasion when things werent going the way John
planned, he would use his height as a veritable
stand-over tactic to entice other people to comply.
some of Johns characteristics for my novel
"Saving Emma". And they work beautifully.
This technique will
give you a whole new perspective on creating characters,
one that I believe you wont discard once
youve tried it.
Draw up two columns
in the first column, write the name of someone who
is well known to you.
Now write a list of
their physical appearance eye and hair colour,
height, weight, and even the way they walk. For instance,
do they stand tall and walk in a straight line, or do
they sway as they go.
Now describe the type
of clothing they normally wear. It is casual clothing, or
perhaps they are more formal. This may be determined by
Think about the
different clothes they wear in changed situations. For
example, a detective may have no choice but to wear a
suit to work. When hes at home, does he then wear
casual clothes, such as track suits or torn jeans?
Think about his speech.
Does he talk quickly, slowly, or at normal speed? (I once
worked with a lady who was diagnosed as being
hyperactive; she talked so quickly, most people had to
ask her to repeat herself.)
Now give his language
some thought. His age will make a big difference to the
language he uses. A teenage may say Oh man, what a
day! but in contrast, his mother would likely say
Ive had a cow of a day!.
Now think about the
personality of this person. Is he shy and retiring, or
more open and outgoing?
What does he do in his
spare time? Perhaps hes a model train enthusiast,
or he may prefer to go to the movies when time allows.
Does he read a book in his spare time, or watch t.v.?
Now were ready
for that second column.
I want you to study the
first column. What you are about to do is pump
up your friends personality. If you think it
will be difficult to rewrite your friend, give the second
column a character name. (That is, if Peter is your
friend, rename it to become Jordon for this subsequent
For every two or three
character traits listed, you need to change at least one.
If the hair is brown,
make it blonde (for example)
If his height is 6 feet
3 ins, change it to say, 5 feet 7 ins.
For an outgoing
personality, turn him into a wallflower, or somewhere in
between. The character you end up with will be totally
unrecognisable. At least thats the theory!
During the course of my
day, I often come across people who are very intriguing
to my writers mind. One such fellow travelled on
the same train as I did when I had early meetings at
His clothing was
scruffy, and he was always unshaven. He slept across a
number of seats, and always kept to himself. He looked to
be Italian or Greek; definitely of Mediterranean origin.
I observed him for many
months, and was often on the verge of asking him a few
questions about himself. I never did have the courage to
approach him; after all, he could have been a murderer,
or an armed robber, anything.
So instead, I used him
to create other characters in my mind.
author: Cheryl Wright
is an award-winning Australian author and freelance journalist. In
addition to an array of other projects, she is the owner of the
Writer2Writer.com website and the Writer to Writer monthly ezine for
writers. Her publications include novels, non-fiction books,
short stories, and articles. To keep up to date with her
publications and new releases, visit Cheryl’s website