Friday, May 6, 2011

Putting On My Lip Gloss #4: From the Sidelines to Center Stage - Reading & Writing Characters

Reading about Characters….

A while back the Chicklit Club voted on the “Best” chick lit characters of all time. See who made the list:

L to R: Bridget Jones, Rebecca Bloomwood, Miranda Priestley (film adaptations)
Do you agree? Who are some of your favorite fictional characters?

As I’ve been working on my current WIP, I’ve been thinking a lot about characters. What point of view to tell their story in? Who to include? What should I call them? How much of their lives should I reveal? When should I introduce them? When should I show conflict between them and when should it be resolved?

Film version of One for the Money by Janet Evanovich 
(Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum, Middle)

 In my research on writing fiction, I have learned there are three (main) ways to craft a novel. One, from a message or idea; two from plot, action or events; and three, from character. For those of you who, like me, love chick lit, you are probably very familiar with the character-driven story. In chick lit, the story is often based around a strong leading heroine who finds herself in some kind of dire situation which thwarts her out of her comfort zone, forces her to take action and then causes her to grow from the inside-out. All in all, a character story can not exist without that specific character. Who else but Stephanie Plum could star in Janet Evanovich’s romantic, adventure-mysteries? Who but Miranda Priestley could have led the fashionistas in The Devil Wears Prada? There’s no character more synonymous with a shopping addiction than Sophia Kinsella’s beloved Becky Bloomwood. Who else could smoke 20 cigarettes a day; 4 pints of alcohol and end the night with 2 brownie sundaes like our lovable Bridget Jones? But what does it take to make a character so memorable that the reader wants to continue to read about their saga?

What do you look for in a character when you read? What are some of the most unique traits you have read about in characters?

Writing about characters…

One of my favorite websites is Girlfriends Book Club. It’s compiled by various chick lit and women’s fiction authors who rotate publishing posts every day. Not only is it a special treat for me because it is written by so many fantastic writers, but the content and advice is always a treasure! As fate would have it, wouldn’t you know it but all my favorite ladies had a bit to say about how to create that perfect leading lady:

Another one of my absolute favorite emails comes from Daily Writing Tips, an invaluable (and free) subscription. From using the zodiac calendar to archetypes and great literary personas, find out where writers draw inspiration for their characters:

Where do you draw your inspiration for characters?

Here are a few other various resources on Creating Characters:

More helpful books on characters:

Creating Characters by Dwayne V. Swain

Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda Edelstein

45 Master Characters by Victoria Schmidt

What are some traits that you feel MUST BE INCLUDED when creating a character?

Putting on My Lip Gloss is a series of blog posts that represent my personal thoughts, ideas and general ramblings related to chick lit reading and writing. Every day is an inspiration – I never know where my next post is going to come from, but when it does, I always feel like putting on my lip gloss! Thanks for reading.


  1. Great post Cathy!

    If I had to pick one favorite, it would definitely be Bridget Jones. For me, I think the thing that makes a chick lit character most appealing is when she embodies traits that the "everywoman" can relate to; that's what makes her endearing and makes me invested in her.

  2. Great pick! Thanks for sharing! I definitely hear what you're saying about the "Everywoman" For pretty much the same reason, one of my favorite characters is Becky Bloomwood. For all her faults, mistakes, naivete, and (of course, the shopping) addiction; I just adore her. She could be my bff or she could be ME! She just seems real to me and I can relate to that.

  3. My favorite hands down is still Bridget Jones. I think the thing that makes a chick lit character most appealing is when she has traits that are shared by the average woman.