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Cooking up the Perfect Character: Masterchef Version


Unobtainable yet at times it seems so provocatively close; a pinch of salt away.

In my head, I have the perfect character. Not perfect aesthetically, morally or in some inhumane kind of way but perfect in the fact that he is himself. Completely fictional but I see the slink in his walk, the confidence in his speech, eloquence in his vocabulary and menace in his persona. I also see the shakiness in both his voice and mannerisms during moments of weakness and his constant need for attention and affirmation.

Writing the perfect character requires… time. The brewing of character traits, flaws, moral obligations, world-view and all things that make them who they are internally is a time consuming exercise, very much like cooking. Coupled with their looks and other outward characteristics, the soup which makes a character, can be a complicated recipe. It also does not end there.


Like any meal, preparation is imperative. Knowing what meal you are making requires knowing what you will need for it. Ingredients, utensils, etc. My initial character development lacked all of these and would end up with something like this:

– 10 words in –

Hmmm what name fits a (enter character role) and is both a name I like and a name that works.

*picks name*

Great! So this character is going to do this and this and become this by the end of the book. They kinda have this personally type which will work well with who they will become. Sweet!

– second paragraph. –

Oh look a wild sub-character suddenly appeared. What will you do: Write. Erase. Run.

Author used Write.

Hmm slightly out of character but maybe we can make this work but… who is this sub character? I guess they will be kind of important in the long run. *Author has successfully captured Sub-Character.

– 10 000 words in –


– 10 001 words in –

Ok I’m done. Next idea. Hmmm what name fits a (enter character role) and is both a name I like and a name that works.

*picks name*

Great! So this character is going to do this and this and become this by the end of the book. They kinda have this personally type which will work well with who they will become. Sweet!

– Rinse and repeat –


What is a meal if not a combination of ingredients put together and prepared intentionally a certain way towards a desired result. Such then is the premise behind the building of a character.

Who is your character? Who are their parents? How were they raised? Do they have siblings? Do they get along? How old are they? What do they do for a living? What do they aspire to become? Why? Etc etc. This is the selection of ingredients; is this ingredient plump and juicy, is this ingredient fresh, is this ingredient the right grade. Will these ingredients give me the expected result?

I in fact found this kind of approach tedious and felt that it made my writing a chore rather than an exciting adventure. However, blindly running in without the slightest clue of some finer details could result in getting halfway and realizing you don’t have that one ingredient you need to complete your meal. I find that the best way forward for me is to line out some key character traits (main ingredients) and get to know my character even if its just a framework which is gradually filled in with each passing sentence and chapter. If the boundaries are stretched and occasionally broken out of necessity then go with the flow. Adapt and change. Eventually you will know who your character is and how to write them accordingly. Result? Still an amazing Meal


As the same exercise is repeated for other characters, the combination of story progression and character growth amalgamate into a scrumptious meal sure to delight the senses and put you one step closer to becoming a Masterchef Publishing Success.


About Nthato Morakabi

Nthato Morakabi is a South African published author. He has short stories appearing in both international and local anthologies, and has published his first book, Beneath the Wax, which opens his three-part novella series "Wax". He is an avid reader, blogger and writer.

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