Compelling Characters

What makes a compelling character? The reader has to engage with the character. They have to have some flaws. No one is perfect and a character shouldn’t be either. Each character in a story should have a mix of good and bad, even the villain. Just as no one is perfect, neither is there a person who has no good qualities at all. You could have a cold-blooded killer who loves and protects puppies and kittens. Sometimes the contract between the good qualities and the bad make the bad seem so much worse. Adolph Hitler had a dog that he loved, yet he was the leader of the Nazis who were responsible for the slaughter of millions of people.

In my writing, I use this Fiction Writer’s Character Chart that I found on the Internet. It is long with lots of questions. I usually complete them as a paragraph in a document. It works well to allow me to get to know my characters. Getting to know the characters you are writing about, makes them real to you. If they are real to you, then they have a better chance of becoming real to your readers.

Some people just sit down and interview their characters. That would work as well, as long as you know what questions you want the answers to. Just take a blank piece of paper or word processor document and put the character’s name at the top. Then follow your instincts on what to write. The chart I use has questions that I answer. I don’t always answer all the questions. That is not the point of the chart. It’s a tool to use to get to know your character. If you like, you can take that chart and complete what you can on someone you know well, then ask them the questions you couldn’t answer. You might be surprised at how much you didn’t actually know about the person. That’s the purpose of the chart.

That chart’s questions are vague on purpose. The charts won’t produce cookie cutter characters, all the same character. The character development depends on the whole, not the parts, so don’t worry about that. You don’t even have to answer all the questions, if you can’t think of an answer to a particular question, leave it out. Not everyone plays computer games, so if you can’t think of the answer to questions in that section, don’t. It’s good for your characters have blanks spots, they are supposed to change in the story after all. what the chart is supposed to do is to help you determine if the change is for the good or not.

Scrivener has a template that is more vague, but covers the same ground. It gives you a place to start with your character. Once you get your characters developed, by whatever means, it will be easier to bring them to life on the page. so, sit down, open a word processor, or get a sheet of paper and a pencil or pen, and start interviewing your characters. Your work will be stronger for it.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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Posted in Writing Fiction, Writing Techniques

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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