Characters are the motive force behind any good story. You can have the most amazing plot, world building, write the snappiest dialogue and create prose that makes editors shrug and say, "I have nothing to say", but if the characters are flat and lifeless the story will never succeed to any great degree.

Building good characters is essential to writing good fiction.

So, what makes a good character?

They are a living, thinking, autonomous person. One of the tests for me is that my characters don't always do as I say.

They have emotional consistency. This is one I figured out only after a pile of rejects unfortunately. I knew one of the scenes near the beginning of Aetherstorm was a little out of place, but I loved it, it was clever and witty and I couldn't really place my finger on what was wrong. Then I figured it out. On page five he has the crap scared out of him, then a scene later he's all suave and clever, it felt completely out of place.

They come across on the page. This has been the toughest one for me to learn. I thought I knew what was going on inside my character's heads before I really spent the time to focus on this. One whole edit of Aetherstorm was spent scene-by-scene putting myself inside their heads and thinking, "Okay, I'm Konrad. X just happened, how does that make me feel?"

As I went through and edited for character, I found that, with Konrad (the lead) especially, it gave me a ton of insight into who he is and he changed in nature from how I had envisioned him. In my early drafts he was essentially a nice guy, caught up in something bigger than himself.

Then I started to really think about who he was. All those Psych classes I took in college began to pay off. I thought about how he lived, and where he came from. His mother died when he was a baby, and his father raised him. His mother and father were stowaways when Himmelberg first launched so they aren't even legal citizens, which places them in a sort of permanent underclass. Add to that the fact that his father had been the product of some experimentation which made him much stronger and faster than a normal human, but he and Konrad cannot use their advantages, because non-humans are automatically labelled mortal enemies of humans and killed on sight. That makes for a mess of an adolescent. He feels he's better than everyone else, but lives as the lowest of the low. That's at the core of his personality. Obviously anger and arrogance are his biggest character flaws at the start.

Over the course of the book he does a lot of things to survive that haunt him. Guilt and the fear that he's turning into exactly the sort of monster humans believe he is keep him up at night. He turns to alcohol and starts to alienate his friends. Everything got a lot darker in the re-writes, and I think the manuscript is better for it. Konrad is certainly a lot less likeable at the end of the newer drafts than he was in the early ones, but he's also more sympathetic and more real, which I think plays well into the bittersweet ending which was inevitable once all the pieces were in motion.


[Mask picture modified from a picture found at, the background photo is by Charles Bodi (who has an amazing collection of beautiful abandoned factory pictures at]


As always, this is a repeat of a blog post from

Views: 167

Comment by Lia Keyes on June 21, 2011 at 8:29pm
I know one author (in my critique group) who writes first drafts in first person so she can put herself in her characters' shoes, inhabit their bodies and minds completely, and then translates the first person POV into third person POV for subsequent drafts. I've tried it for scenes where I'm standing too far back from my characters and it really works!
Comment by Mark Fenger on June 22, 2011 at 11:45am
That's an interesting suggestion. I wrote my first novel in first person before transferring it to third. I don't think it really helped me much there, but I suppose different tricks work for different authors. The best method for me so far has been to dedicate one whole edit to emotions, thoughts and character development.
Comment by Lia Keyes on June 22, 2011 at 11:16pm
I find it fascinating how many different ways there are to write a novel—as many as the number of writers facing the challenge, it seems!


You need to be a member of S.W.A.G to add comments!

Join S.W.A.G

SWAG Support Fund

Visit us on:

TWITTER                          TUMBLR



Latest Activity

Doc Coleman posted photos
May 4
Profile IconC.I. Chevron and Doc Coleman joined S.W.A.G
May 3
Harmonie Sjoblom is now a member of S.W.A.G
Mar 17
Leon Bawdon posted photos
Feb 6
magassia promotions posted a blog post

New Music Video NEW FLAVA by SMILEY

Hittown Records presents "SMILEY " . Smiley is a Broward County,FL artist with a bright future. "R.I.P 2 The Trap" the mixtape/album has plenty of flavor if your looking for something new. The edgy smooth voice and beats provide a sound and vibe for any occasion . The production and rhymes along with catchy hooks make this a guaranteed download to your playlist.Please make sure you follow and subscribe to all platforms.Get connected with Smiley on social media:Facebook:…See More
Jan 17
magassia promotions posted blog posts
Jan 11
magassia promotions posted a blog post

New Mixtape "Mass Up" by Boyz N Da Massis

Mass UpBoyz N Da Massis - Mass Up. Download the Mass Up mixtape or stream for free. No registration required.We are the Boyz N Da Massis which consist a group of 3 Blood brothers GTB Ball Hard, GTB Da Gasman, & GTB Block all born and raised in Birmingham, AL. The group was originally created in the streets and the original name was “Biker Boyz.” Eventually After a couple of years, the name was changed to BOYZ N DA…See More
Dec 19, 2018
magassia promotions posted a blog post

New EP "MIA VITA" by Salese

Change Has Come...Very rarely in the world of Hip Hop today do you encounter the best of all worlds. An artist with hit making ability, an image that is marketable yet honest and genuine, matched with sharp business savvy all wrapped in one.Recording artist SaleSe represents just that.And now more than ever, SaleSe feels the need to give the music business what it's been lacking: creativity, a fresh perspective, a reason to party and a dose of that New York City reality...After a slew of club…See More
Dec 9, 2018

Click here for SWAG badges for websites

Small Press, Indie & Anthology Covers

© 2019   Created by Lia Keyes.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service