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  • Writer's pictureCherie Claire

Writing 101: Creating great characters

My favorite part of writing is creating great characters, giving them unusual, quirky and fun traits. Using regional dialects. Making them do interesting things. How many times have you read a story and felt like you lost a friend at its conclusion? Those are great characters!

Here are some examples I've found of wonderful fictional character descriptions.

The Color Purple

“He leaned across the table, his massive face compressing his neck into a series of ripples that fell in a mudslide into his collar. He was a giant Shar-Pei gazing into Kyle’s eyes, wanting to be petted.”

—Bruce Henricksen, “After the Floods”

“Jude shined the world on and slipped its worst punches and in a fight knew how to swallow his blood and never let people know he was hurt. He had his Jewish mother’s narrow eyes and chestnut hair, and he combed it straight back in a hump, like a character out of a 1930s movie.”

—James Lee Burke, “The Tin Roof Blowdown”

“It wasn’t until he started elementary school that he realized it was wrong to draw on walls. It had been such a relief. School gave him structure, rules, direction. Summer vacations had him forgetting to eat because he spent hours and hours drawing and dreaming, never moderated by his parents. They had loved that about him. His had been a good childhood but one where ambition ranked right up there with Ronald Reagan as taboo subjects. He’d always assumed that, like his parents, he could make a meager living from his artwork and be happy with that. But school was nice, college even better, and he didn’t like the thought of leaving it.

So he decided to teach.

His parents never understood. Making good money was almost as bad as becoming a Republican.”

—Sarah Addison Allen, “Garden Spells”

“Annie stripped off her gray linen suit and slipped on a plain T-shirt and jeans that were beginning to feel snug. She unzipped her suitcase, took out her small bag of toiletries, put them in the bathroom cabinet, and dumped the rest of the wrinkled contents of her Monday-through-Friday life into the hamper. She was back downstairs in less then seven minutes. Her quick change from work clothes to home clothes was getting faster every week.”

—Nancy Star, “Carpool Diem”

Harry Potter

“Claude is simply mouth-watering; six feet tall, with rippling black hair and large brown eyes, a perfect nose and lips just full enough. He keeps his hair long to cover up his ears; they’ve been surgically altered to look rounded like human ears, not pointed as they originally were. If you’re in the know supernaturally, you’ll spot the ear surgery, and you’ll know Claude is a fairy. I’m not using the pejorative term for his sexual orientation. I mean it literally; Claude’s a fairy.”

—Charlaine Harris, “Definitely Dead”

“He had a long stride, and it ate up the sidewalk quickly.”

—Nora Roberts, “Face the Fire”

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