MJ Bush collected 99 great little pieces of advice on strong characters — including a PDF download of all of them! Some of my favorites:
“Let’s face it, characters are the bedrock of your fiction. Plot is just a series of actions that happen in a sequence, and without someone to either perpetrate or suffer the consequences of those actions, you have no one for your reader to root for, or wish bad things on.” Icy Sedgwick
For someone as focused on action and plot as I am, I need to be reminded of this.
“Great fiction is fueled by bad decisions and human weakness.” Kristen Lamb
Augh! Bad decisions and weakness. I write characters who are generally strong and get thrown into situations that even they can’t handle.
Oh, who am I kidding. I have trouble writing bad decisions and weakness in characters because I have a hard time tolerating them in life, period. I’m used to looking at them as things to be fought through and overcome. I need to let being “only human” into my writing.
For every important moment, your character needs to react. First viscerally, then emotionally, then physically and finally, intellectually. Often a writer will show a character reacting with deep thought about a situation, when their first natural reactions are missing.” CS Larkin
Good point! We react with our gut first, even if we don’t realize it.
“A character is what he does, yes — but even more, a character is what he means to do.” Orson Scott Card
And the drama of the story is dealing with what happens when he or she doesn’t get their way.
“The thing I do at the beginning is a “voice journal,” a free form doc that is the character speaking to me. I just work on it until I start to hear different from my own, or the other characters.” James Scott Bell
Ooh! I need to do this for Risha, king Ro, and some other characters.