Creating Strong Characters in a Story – 23rd May 2013

I love creating characters – it is one of the joys of being a story teller. Some may be based on people you know in real life, but more often than not, they are a product of our imagination.

There are ‘good’ characters and ‘bad’ characters – though quite often, I like the ones in between. I think it’s important to distinguish peripheral charaters just as much as the main ones – it gives a sense of reality, especially in the context of a community – and these are the characters which often fall into a third category, which I call ‘neutral’. The point of this blog is to see if you can disinguish a character’s alignment, just from the way I present them.

I like my characters to come across as real people – just like those you would meet in every day life and in order to do that, you need to describe them in ways which allow readers to get to know them – not just through their appearance, but their actions and mannerisms, the way they talk, the way they move and in some cases, even the way they think.

On to a few of the characters themselves, from my debut novel ‘Beginnings’

Here are some examples of the descriptive passages I use, to depict the some of the people in my book – starting with their actions:

Leaning back against the sofa, she closed her eyes. She was dragged down with exhaustion and tried to swallow, but with some difficulty – her throat felt so dry. Jake, who was carefully watching her, recognised the signs – especially when she touched her hand to her throat. Without another word, he wandered into the kitchen and made two mugs of tea – then found a clean cloth from the cupboard and dampened it slightly with water, still warm from the tap. Once he was settled down next to her, he then took her chin gently in his hand, tilting her face towards him from where he proceeded to wipe her face – smoothing the away the dirt as well as the salt trails from the tears which had dried on her cheeks.

The gentleness of his actions speak volumes, suggesting he is a good character – which he is. Jake is an innocent rock musician from Holland, forced into hiding.

Now on to mannerisms:

Apart from his distinctive looks, there was something else – it was the way he moved, slowly, but with flashes of sudden animation.
“Hello folks,” he said softly – his voice was mid-range, neither deep nor high, but rang into the silent room with a strange echo, as well as a husky quality of one who had spent too much time in smoky snooker halls. “Surprised to see me again so soon?”
He was enjoying himself it seemed, as he swaggered from one end of the room to the other revelling in the effect he was having on the residents.

Do you imagine this might be a good character? If your answer is ‘no’ then you’re correct. Dominic a feared gang from the criminal underworld of London.

The last attribute I want to discuss concerns the way people think – which may also be used to depict their emotions – so here is a sneak preview of a character from my sequel ‘Visions’.

First came the depression, where time hung in a void; then the bitterness and the anger – but these days, he just seemed lost, a feeling where he found himself endlessly searching – unaware of each new avenue he was about to be drawn down. Grateful for the chance to offload, Andrew told them everything – describing the squalid flat in Bromley; the frustration of being constantly broke; having no-one to talk to, to explain the way he really felt; his little sister, who was a right pain in the arse – whose recent sulks were starting to get on his tits! By the time he had finished, his limbs as well as his mind felt heavy.

Good character or bad? He’s one of these in-between neutral characters, who could turn either way (though in the above extract, I hope to have depicted him as a moody teenager.)


The first book ‘Beginnings’ is available now on , and Create Space.

Same Face Different Place ‘Visions’ is a work in progress and due out very soon (estimated publication date – late summer, 2013)

About Helen J. Christmas

I am an English author and have written a series of novels, titled 'Same Face Different Place. Beginnings is a gangland thriller set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London. The second Book 'Visions' is a psychological thriller, set in Kent; a mystery that ensnares the owners of an historic, English Country House. Book 3 Pleasures contains suspense, thrills and YA romance, set in a backdrop of organised crime and at the advent of the British rave culture. There are 2 final books in the series, Retribution (Phase One) and Retribution (End Game) where the saga reaches its dramatic conclusion.
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