Developing Characters

I’ve come to the conclusion that the easiest way to create believable characters is to figure out what their “thing” is.

What is a “thing” you ask? Whenever I meet someone new, I ask them what their “thing” is and the conversation invariably goes like this:

Me: So what’s your thing?
Them: My thing?
Me: Yeah, what do you like to do in your spare time? What are you good at? What can’t you live without? A thing is what you do in your spare time and get no real reward from aside from personal enjoyment.

For example. My “thing” is writing… obviously. Writing and reading and if you like both of those things then we’ll probably get along like a house on fire.

My boyfriend’s “thing” is fishing. Fishing and camping and watching sport with his mates.

Usually when I’m struggling with a character, it’s because I haven’t figured out what their “thing” is. I haven’t decided what activity they always deviate back to, what they spend a lot of time thinking about or aspiring to.

As a side note… you would not believe how many people I have spoken to who tell me they don’t have a “thing”. Which is fine, I suppose, but how awesome are people when they have something they’re passionate about! SO AWESOME.

So on that note, I have two questions.
1. What is your thing?
2. What is your main characters thing?

My main character in Chemicals Collide is seventeen-year-old Sara and her thing is the outdoors. She loves hiking, going to he park, walking her dogs. That’s her thing. Get her outside and she’s happy.

If you need me I’ll be at Camp Nanowrimo!

On a side note, my mum (being the proud mum that she is) entered me in the Best Australian Blogging Awards. So if you have a spare couple of seconds, feel free to vote for me. I’m listed as Jodie Llewellyn.

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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89 Responses to Developing Characters

  1. You’ve got my vote, keep up the interesting posts!

    My “thing” is that I’ve got too many things and not enough time in the day. Mainly, though, it’s writing, family, and web development (which I guess is a form of writing). One of my character’s things is finding his way home to be reunited with his family.

    Like

  2. You’ve got my vote, keep up the interesting posts!

    My “thing” is that I’ve got too many things and not enough time in the day. Mainly, though, it’s writing, family, and web development (which I guess is a form of writing). One of my character’s things is finding his way home to be reunited with his family.

    Like

  3. dramagoddess says:

    My thing: Musical Theatre, Non-Musical Theatre, Reading, Writing, Bad TV, collecting bath products.
    My Character’s Thing: Reading, Keeping to herself, *clarinet, hockey, history.
    *May end up being cello, I can’t decide. πŸ™‚

    Like

  4. I have three things: Writing. Photography and Reading.
    As she stands, my character does not have a ‘thing’ but I will be getting her ‘thinging’ in tonights writing session for Camp. πŸ™‚

    Great post.

    Like

  5. My thing: Writing/Reading, Singing, Swimming, Planning and Organizing Events (like bridal/baby showers. Love it!), Film, Ice Hockey (Go Red Wings!!), Learning!! I loved school. I’m such a nerd. πŸ™‚
    My Character’s Thing: Needing to prove herself to the world that she can live up to her mother’s reputation. That’s her biggest thing. The others are her dad, animals, tracking/outdoors, the water, adventures.

    Amazing post! I never would have had the insight for such a post. You hit the nail on the head, and have now given me a new tool for every character. I will find what each of their ‘things’ are, if I haven’t already. Thank you!

    Like

    • jodiellewellyn says:

      I use it to figure out people in real life, so why not characters? lol.

      Like

      • Ooooo!!!! Good idea! I need to screen everyone in my life. Although I’m sure I will (as you probably do) get weird looks when I ask “What’s your thing?” πŸ™‚ I look forward to the hilarity that will ensue.

        Like

  6. bkpyett says:

    Great post, thank you!

    Like

  7. Very nice post! I have many “things” – but one of them has always been learning about my fictional characters. Who they are, where they are from, what makes them special…”finding their “thing”.
    I like that.

    Like

  8. Character uniqueness is important, make you remember them after the books story is forgotten about.

    Like

  9. embrystical says:

    My ‘thing’ is maybe singing. In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now πŸ™‚
    In my books, there are many characters, and therefore many things. Off the top of my head…Curtis’ thing is probably drinking (a cop-out, I know), Embry’s is probably reading, and Alex’s is playing the piano (not the flute, the PIANO).
    In my Nano novel, Tess’ is escaping to the woods with Nathan, and Nathan’s is reading old letter his mother wrote to his father in the war before they died. The president’s evil – his is probably killing kids.

    Like

  10. bridieh says:

    Hey Jodie, thanks for liking a post on my blog. Yours is great too and I voted for it. To answer your question, my thing is writing, but also reading. I agree how your characters having a thing can help portray them. In my YA, the MC, Isabelle, paints, and Harper cooks. πŸ™‚

    Like

  11. bridieh says:

    Hey Jodie, thanks for liking a post on my blog. Yours is great too and I voted for it. To answer your question, my thing is writing, but also reading. I agree how your characters having a thing can help portray them. In my YA, the MC, Isabelle, paints, and Harper cooks. πŸ™‚

    Like

  12. Miriam says:

    Interesting! I write and read, of course. I do a lot of folk dancing, as well as other activities. But the “thing” I’m passionate about, although I haven’t done much about it yet, is raising awareness of social anxiety. Esty’s thing is reaching the other side and being accepted there. Martin’s is probably also being accepted but in a different way.

    Like

  13. Sam says:

    Voted! I guess my ‘thing’ would also be writing. I love that idea and I think it would really help develop characters. Great idea, I might start doing it.

    Like

  14. Harliqueen says:

    What a great post! And a great point πŸ˜€

    I guess my thing is writing and gardening. My main characters thing is probably riding and flouncing around in nice dresses! (Who wouldn’t do that if they could? lol).

    Like

  15. scriberblog says:

    Great idea. I’m glad you posted this.
    My Thing: Music, stories and learning about everything (I’m curious about many things).
    My characters thing: I need to think about this. I wish I had an answer. This never even occurred to me.
    What if a character has nothing-living in poverty or only lives to work so he/she can provide, what could their thing be? Nothing?

    Like

    • That’s an interesting point. I think that such a character might not have a ‘hobby’ or pastime in the conventional sense – they might be simply unable to afford one, in terms of money or time – but there might still be some ‘thing’ that they think of, the thing that kind of keeps them going. The thing they think about when they close their eyes. It might be a small, simple thing. (Now I’ve used the word ‘thing’ far too many times in one paragraph. Oh well.)

      Like

      • scriberblog says:

        Lol. Yes, it would have to be a memory because that is all he/she would have. Or it can be a creepy character that likes to stare at people and make up stories in her mind.

        Like

  16. Tzamion says:

    I enjoyed this awesome and cute writeup here. Happy Friday!

    Like

  17. Widdershins says:

    Voted! Good luck. πŸ˜€

    Like

  18. Widdershins says:

    Voted! Good luck. πŸ˜€

    Like

  19. Frankie Ash says:

    We have the same thing!!! Awesome is sooo contagious:) Congrats on your blog nomination and good luck!

    Like

  20. hannahgivens says:

    Well, my thing is stories. My character’s thing is inventing, tinkering. (He’s a mad scientist. Or, more specifically, a mad engineer. πŸ˜‰ )

    Like

  21. eskopoet says:

    So I was at a play yesterday in Philadelphia, after having read this, and I realized that you should also write plays…

    and my thing is… music, poetry, and food!

    Like

  22. eskopoet says:

    So I was at a play yesterday in Philadelphia, after having read this, and I realized that you should also write plays…

    and my thing is… music, poetry, and food!

    Like

  23. equinoxio21 says:

    Nice point! I used to have a market research agency here in Mexico, and I eventually interviewed all final candidates for executive position. My key question was, around the end of the interview: “do you have a passion in life?”. A lot of candidates failed that question. 😦
    Thanks for the “thing”
    Take care
    Brian

    Like

  24. jpkenna says:

    History! Not the dried-up stuff presented by mediocre teachers, but that which gives meaning to our present-day life by illuminating what went on before us, what made us, and the world we currently inhabit. It’s exciting to know you’re part of a continuum. My goal is to infuse that excitement into fiction–stories about everyday people getting through their lives (at times doing extraordinary things), what ever the time period.

    Like

  25. My thing – writing (obs), reading, gaming, movies, and social media
    My character’s thing – identity theft and con artistry.

    Like

  26. iamccsmith says:

    Writing is my thing. Writing and sunshine.

    Character development is something I struggle with. I just started a new novel, where the protagonist’s thing starts off as being alcohol and ends up being ass kicking and fighting evil.

    Like

  27. My character’s thing: Aliana’s is probably books… she’s very secretive without intending to be, so I don’t know. Jay’s is probably healing, sabotage, and anything outdoorsy that takes him away from the city he used to live in. Klis’s is probably taking care of her sister. Family lady, she should be. Maybe I’ll give her a family of her own, make her a mom at the end of the novel… ;-P

    Like

  28. My character’s thing: Aliana’s is probably books… she’s very secretive without intending to be, so I don’t know. Jay’s is probably healing, sabotage, and anything outdoorsy that takes him away from the city he used to live in. Klis’s is probably taking care of her sister. Family lady, she should be. Maybe I’ll give her a family of her own, make her a mom at the end of the novel… ;-P

    Like

  29. unknown says:

    That’s a very good way of getting into a character – one ‘thing’ really does lead to another! One characteristic often just unlocks the person you want to create.

    Like

  30. tonygraff12 says:

    I’m going to throw a wrench in this one. Please know I have a deep respect for all authors for their work and passion for their craft.

    Having a thing is a good starting point, but it leaves so much room to still create the full spectrum of bland to deep and interesting characters.

    For example, a character could have a thing for food, but that would still leave him or her to be anything from an amateur food critic to a world-renowned chef to a hobo with an eye for fast food. All still have food as their thing, but each one would still run the risk of being a bland character.

    In my experience, it’s not just the thing that makes a character wake up in the morning with purpose and passion, but it’s also the details that surround it. In particular, the imperfections.

    Let’s say that food critic was blind, or the world renowned chef is a samurai when he’s not at work, or that the hobo with a penchant for fast food has a priceless collection of cuff links. Those details make a character more interesting.

    Like

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