How I Create a Character (with Examples)

You know what I find interesting? There is a real process to creating pretend characters for fiction. I have been in or mostly helped by a template I found online from a writer named Writer named Randy Ingermanson. He created the so-called snowflake methodOf plot development,And if you're not aware of it it's a good thing to Google.

His template for character development forces you to ask key questions about the motivation, background, and longings of your characters. This is basically how you get to know them, well before you write a word of the novel.

And I don't know that you, when I start writing a character, they just muscle their way in and tell me what to write. By creating a character sketch, that ‘takeover’ process happens even more easily and quickly. Furthermore, you're not left hanging out to dry when the action gets going in the plot. You’ve thought things through, and so you’re prepared for whatever your characters are going to throw at you.

Here's an example of a character sketch I created for Tenika, the co-owner of the Driven garage in my new lesbian romance series, the Oaktown Girls Novels. May you find these character shaping questions interesting or useful somehow!


         The character’s name: Tenika Stanford

         A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline:

This African-American lesbian mechanic/life hacker can fix damn near everything. She’s also a fount of homegrown wisdom who Lizzy depends on deeply to run their business. Tenika is Lizzy’s best friend, despite the fact that she’s 15 years older. Lizzy helped her build the current iteration of the Driven Garage, which she inherited from her uncle after his sudden death.

Tenika is married to Delilah, a white tattoo artist. They have a happy, stable relationship that Lizzy is mildly in awe of.

         The character’s motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)

Tenika is not one to have a lot of ‘wants’, as she grew up poor in Oakland and has a great sense of abundance even with a little. She’s happy doing her thing, extremely present in the moment, and a generally joyful, enthusiastic person. Yet, she’s also a dedicated friend, and very loyal to Lizzy. So at the moment, she wants to see her best friend get out of her slump and find love again.

   The character’s goal (what does he/she want concretely?)

Tenika will also do whatever it takes to keep the garage open, as not incidentally, she needs the job. If this source of income goes, Tenika’s not sure where or who she’d even want to work with besides Lizzy.

The character’s conflict (what prevents her from reaching this goal?)

Tenika is not a slick, marketing-minded person, nor is she a savvy operator. She’s a woman who fixes any kind of engine or life problem using good old ingenuity and kindness wherever possible. But this time she and Lizzy are out of their depths on how to take on a dark public figure like Mindy Rose. However … once Tenika gets mad, there’s no stopping her.

The character’s epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?

Tenika is a rock, so she’s not going to change much – but she will exercise a savvy streak in doing her own version of revenge on the evil Mindy. It’s a trait she seldom uses, but relishes when she does. For Tenika, good’s ALWAYS got to triumph over evil, and she serves as the reminder of this.

 She’s initially suspicious of Kate, but grudgingly admits that Lizzy is better off in love with her and soon comes to accept her. But THEN when she finds out who Kate really is, she is seriously angry … Finally, she has to admit that she can give Kate a break. She grows in her ability to become less suspicious and more accepting.                 

A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline

Tenika and Lizzy do battle against Mindy Rose, trying to keep their doors open as the landlord closes in on them. She is dedicated in the fight, and not out of her depths in taking on a sophisticated schemer like Mindy Rose. Tenika’s hates when she is temporarily flummoxed by the situation, because she’s used to fixing all kinds of stuff successfully. (“We never had to market the dang garage before. Everyone just … showed up!”) But once she gets mad, which takes a lot, Tenika makes sure she gets even … ultimately making things very difficult for Mindy Rose at the trial in the end. She and Lizzy work hard together to triumph over evil, and they both emerge victorious.


Suzanne FalterComment