RSS Feed

Tag Archives: characters

Genre Writing: Horror – Crafting a Character

In my writing, I’ve noticed that I spend a lot of time building worlds and using descriptive language to tell the story. The one thing that I have always lacked, and hope to improve, is my characters. I know I reference Stephen King a lot. Like a lot, but one thing I keep mentioning about his work is how well he does his characters. Long after I’ve read the book, I can still recall his characters.

Character Building

So how do you build the perfect character? That’s quite difficult to say, although there are fundamentals we can pick out. You can use these basics for any story, whether it’s horror or Sci-Fi, or Fantasy.

  • Individuality

A friend of mine (Nicky from Chasing Dreams Publishing) has some great ideas on how to craft characters readers will enjoy. The one thing I extracted from her post is making characters unique. This may seem like a given, and in your mind you may see them as individuals. It’s how you bring them across that is important. Things like how they speak (voice/tone), how they carry themselves (body language), and how they act.

  • Motivation/Conflict

Everyone around you wants something. A personal goal that keeps them ticking. It doesn’t have to be anything epic (find the special item of immeasurable power) or world domination. These goals and motivations define what is important to your characters and they will act accordingly. Then have something that conflicts with their goal whether it’s a person or a personal trait.

  • Character Flaws

Usually this tags along with some sort of cliche. The red-haired is feisty. The ex-cop is a drunk. The religious lady is a crazy zealot. Etc. Most flaws are a little less eccentric, but can be written to be the character’s downfall or lead to something believable yet out of character. For instance, in Dreamcatcher by Stephen King, the one character stopped picked up chewing on toothpicks to get over a bad habit. This later leads to a very fatal end when he’s in a strenuous situation and just needs his toothpick. NEEDS it.

My Protagonist

The innocent Jane/John Doe whose life is thrown into disarray after discovering an evil entity in their home/child/parent/school, feels over done. I’ve watched a lot of horror movie trailers (and movies) as well as read a couple of horror book blurbs with this sort of premise. While I don’t always shun cliches, this idea is boring for me.

To change it up, my protagonist won’t be an innocent, ordinary Jane/John Doe. Instead I have:


Profile: Must appear innocent to characters in book yet reader must get a sense of a deeper darkness. A troubled past they have embraced. An uncertain future they wish to clarify and brighten. Broken and hopeful.

Conflict: What defines them is exactly what they want to change. A journey of self-discovery, with very difficult choices that contradict their goal even though it’s supposed to help.

Strengths and Flaws: Carefree attitude allows them to shrug off lots of things, while nursing a crippling fear of the “darkness” within them that forces them to shun people. Troubled past has grown and matured them mentally and emotionally to live an almost normal life, while a small part is mischievous and playful to reconnect to that lost past they wish to regain which causes issues.

Jake Chambers The Dark Tower Stephen King

Jake Chambers from Stephen King’s the Dark Tower is an interesting character, especially since he is quite young. Also, he fits this description well. Too well…

Look Around You

Last point. Be observant of the people around you. There are living, breathing characters right in your vicinity and could make wonderful additions and mixes to your story.


Character Backstory Woes

I made a terrible discovery yesterday. The minor character in my novel who dies in the first chapter (well supposed to anyway…suddenly undecided) has a better backstory than my protagonist. This minor character has a rich beautiful backstory that won’t be part of the novel while my protagonist has nothing interesting at all. I figured it was time for a little Extreme Makeover Novel Edition *cue music


Meet the Character

Protagonist is a fluffy poodle of wasted potential badly planned and written even worse. He’s been living as an incomplete in the First Drafts Section for over three years with no hope of ever coming to the fore. However, in a dramatic turn of events, he’s found a new home in Second Drafts which is being renewed and refurbished. However, will that be enough?

Back to Basics

We’ll be crafting a new identity for this quagmire oozing latent aptitude to be the a great Protagonist. First we must consider their traits:


  • Who are they: Name. Last name. Nickname. Age. Race. Language. Height. Weight. Imagine them fully fleshed out as a walking, talking real person. If Protagonist is not alive to you, they won’t be alive to readers.
  • What are they: Human? Orc? Pizza-slice animated to life and seeking the purpose of life? Are they working or students or mage or detective? Are they the Chosen One or the stable boy or a passing wind offering fruits of wisdom to strangers? What Protagonist is, defines social life, goals, aspirations, challenges, advantages. Paint the details that specify Protagonist.
  • Past|Present|Future: Who was Protagonist before the start of the novel? Who are they during the course of it? Who will they be at the end of it? Has the “Who” and “What” changed during these transitions? For good or bad? In short, does the wise wandering old mentor turn out to be a random man who found fortune cookies in the dumpster behind the Chinese restaurant. How does that change your character?
  • Choices: Choices made by the protagonist, antagonist, and other characters affect the protagonist in some way. These also after the story being told. Don’t forget that story and character are deeply intertwined like the flavouring of your 2 Minute Noodles and the bottom of your pot/plate/microwave.

After careful application of these concepts, Protagonist should come out shiny and new, with purpose and depth sure to stun readers into swooning stupors of joy.

Backstory Vs Back Story


One is the history of the character and the other is a story about the character’s back (or a command to tell the story to back-off). Same thing. Whatever. Either way, a character is defined by their history and what’s behind them (see what I did there?), much like we are. Look back (ha more puns) into your own past at a choice or decision you or someone else made that could have changed who you are today.

You can start with a character and who you want them to be, and fit a matching backstory as you see fit. Alternatively you can define the world or history around them and let that define the character.

Protagonist is now ready to delve into the story. You know who they are, what they are and where they come from. You know how they walk and talk, and importantly where they are going. It’s time to match character to story.

Novel Reveal

Following this intense procedure of revamping the character and their backstory, the story may or may not change. What does change, is the revelation about your character that will drive your story forward.


Junk Yard Angel, which is the novel I am currently working on, has seen some dramatic changes in its story. While keeping the original idea intact, the character improvement has also restructured the sequence of events. This means new characters, new settings, new technology and more importantly, a deeper, richer story to tell. It also added more links to my mind map which have spawned a new idea for the novel: side stories.

Side Stories will be the untold arcs that won’t appear in the novel but will add a profound depth to the world where Junk Yard Angel takes place. Worldbuilding added to much of these untold stories. It’s a really exciting time ahead and I look forward to completing my novel.

Have you realized any profound changes to your novel WIP and had to re-work the characters/world/story? How did it work out for you?

Progress – NaNoWriMo

Courtesy of the NaNoWriMo website, not my own work or like whatever. COPYRIGHT etc etc

Courtesy of the NaNoWriMo website, not my own work or like whatever. COPYRIGHT etc etc

So I’m almost 10 000 words in (9 955 words to be exact at the posting of this uh…post) and I’ve written myself into various dilemmas! Understandably though as my characters are progressing this fictional world and getting thrown into situations that aren’t favourable to them and it costs them dearly! Funny thing is that they are actually just making their own decisions and I’m incorporating the world around them to fit. Don’t laugh! I’m serious. I’m just typing along la di da di da and then BAM “hey I want to go left, what’s left?” and I’m like “Uhhh vampires? I guess…” and the character is all “I love vampires, remember that time you wrote a vampire short story? The stakes were high on that one!” and I’m like “But you can’t have vampires! They don’t fit” and next thing I know I have vampires infiltrating a well thought out romance novel (uhhh…yes occasionally I write at twilight? What do you mean its a movie/book? Sparkles???)

So what’s the dealio Thito?

Well firstly my world is suddenly populating with characters that I had not anticipated, characters suddenly sprouting opinions and ideas of their own forcing me to incorporate them into the big scheme of things and they have proven to me that they are worthy of being included. Imagine that! They are just screaming at me to make them part of the story so I have and I’m liking how they are shaping up and I have already foreseen how they will either aid or hinder my MC’s as they continue of this quest.*breathes* Did someone say excitement? Oh and then there is this one character, sneaky sneaky! He is creeping in to every little arc like some sort of sneaky antagonist who never gives any of the MCs or SCs (Main characters and Sub characters…in case you have been confusing them with rappers or whatever – like I did the first few times. What’s up with this Master of Ceremonies showing up everywhere! – I digress – lol always wanted to say that…I wonder how much can be put in to parenthesis before it becomes its own little paragraph…maybe I should remove the parenthesis …parentheses…I’ll add an authors note!) a chance. #Authors note. Read previous sentence excluding sentences within the parentheses to make sense of it.

So how easy is it to make a fictional earth?

Well let’s take a look at it shall we. There is a planet. The planet has to be designed somewhat and of course named. I suck at names. What’s worse? The planet is made up of continents – continents have names! I so far planned only 5 continents and if I really have to add more I will but I can handle five, besides I only need these five to progress my story. I can do a whole Japanese RPG thing and bring in this one separated continent in the middle of nowhere, hiding a giant floating city (or underwater city oooh) where the final battle ensues. Or I could just go with what I have. Then each continent is made up of countries. Many countries in fact. South America with 12 countries is a continent with the least number of countries (excluding those frigid landscapes that have NO countries. I like that idea better!) and each country has a name. Argentina comes from the Latin word Argentum which means silver and was used at first to speak of a Silver River. Brazil stems its origin from the brazilwood tree which was  its earliest commercially exploited product. In Portuguese brazilwood is called pau-brasil, from the Latin word brasa meaning ember or rather red wood. What about my countries? Do they have such rich historical roots? Nope! Which means that I have some work to do in building a background for these countries. Oh and do you know what’s in each country? Yeah…. states and provinces and cities and villages and towns and suburbs and streets and roads and avenues and mountains and hills and tourists sights oh gosh!

Freakin out there ?

Uh yeah no. I mean I’m like one fifth in already right? 23 days to go to write the remaining 40 000 words (40045 to be exact) and what I have is this unraveling of characters and places and events that each lead to their own separate story arcs. Each arc building up to that cataclysmic conclusion where the protagonist and antagonist clash swords, shoot energy balls at each other and achieve their ultimate form that pushes their power level beyond all human understanding and probability. Okay that’s not happening in my story but you get the gist of what I’m saying right? Great!

Any fears?

Yes! I’m afraid that my novel might be longer that 50 000 words because as things are progressing, my storyline is slowing down. I feel like its moving a bit too fast you know, like you won’t get to know and understanding these characters as they are and by the time you have a sense of who each one is, they are already shooting energy balls at each other and the one dies and its like, whoa whoa whoa! Who are these people and why should I care that a sword has been driven into his chest!? And what do you mean they rode off into the sunset? It can’t be over already!

Do I have a fear of not finishing?

Hmmmm I think somewhere in the recesses of my mind I’m contemplating it. When fatigue sets in at 500 words and I know that there is still another +-1200 to go before I can call it quits, at those times I feel like quitting. Who needs this novel anyway. The worst times are when I can’t come up with anything to progress my story and I read it over to see how I can move them along to where they need to be but no ideas come to mind – and its 23:00 meaning I have an hour to write over 1000 words. Pressure! Frustration! But with NaNo on my case and numbers publicly displayed and coaches hashtagging twitter and e-mails with updates constantly reminding me of this novel that I’m writing, how can I fall away. All this pressure. So I push. But I also push because I’m enjoying the writing. Its invigorating and fun and you know sleeping at 00:01 because I had to make sure I reach my daily quota is somewhat satisfying. Thankfully at the end of it I’m so fatigued, I fall asleep almost immediately. I mean writing is emotionally, mentally and physically tiring. But I love it.

Well with that said let me bid you adieu. I haven’t written anything so far, I used up more than a 1000 words writing this post which means I have to dig deep to find another 1600 or so words in the next… 4 hours. Procrastination tells me I can play some League of Legends or Battlefield 4 or a game or two of Fifa14. The rest of my working brain is screaming at me to get to work. Guess you can check my word counter on the right hand corner there to see which one of ’em won.

To all other NaNo’s out there. Keep writing, keep pushing and let’s finish well.

Sketching it out

It’s not that I haven’t been writing, it’s just that drawing has been my focus recently, trying to visualize my characters from my Walking by Faith post : Walking By Faith. Here are the sketches




















I’ve been trying to capture the personality of my characters in these sketches and so you will see that the drawings aren’t complete. The focus is more on the facial features or recognizable features like the hint of the straw hat Faith wears or the look of anger/sadness/despondence on Aaron’s face.

Please do keep visiting the site as I work on finishing my stories and novels. Thanks!

Rajat Narula

Let's keep the love for books alive

Philosophy is all about being curious, asking basic questions. And it can be fun!

Transmundane Press

Join the Community

Andrew McDowell

An Author of Many Parts

Letters from a Horror Writer

Katie Marie, Horror Enthusiast & Writer

Just another blog of random thoughts.

sakhile whispers

mental health and books over every damn thing

Way Too Fantasy

Speculative fiction book reviews and more!

R. Michael

The home of mysteries, writing, and ponderings.

The Library Ladies

Two librarians, one blog, zero SHH-ing

The Lost Highway Hotel

See cinema differently

Lorraine Ambers

Fantasy writer - Bibliophile - Daydreamer


Ordinary Girl in Love with Horror

SAM's Book Reviews

Books Old & New


Personal blog