Who are the characters on screen and in literature that you’ll never forget? Some of mine are:
Anne Rice’s Lestat in The Vampire Lestat
Alice Walker’s Celie in The Color Purple
Mercedes Lackey’s Vanyel in Magic’s Pawn
Carol Berg’s Seyonne in Transformation (Rai Kirah)
What makes these characters memorable is that they battled great external hardships, faced internal struggles, and had unique personalities.
Tips to help create fully rounded protagonists:
- Show what drives your character in the story, what they will and will not do to achieve their goals
- Show how your character’s flaws (or the lies they believe) hold them back from achieving their goals
- Show how your villain is the hero’s equal, just as powerful or even more. Equally-matched battles are the most memorable
- Put them in danger then take away their power, tools or safety net. The best characters are the ones who have to cope and dig their way out in a new way
- Have them make decisions that are equally bad and will have real consequences
- No matter how unlikable, unique or other worldly your main characters are, they should have one trait that is relatable to your readers
- Show how your protagonist’s transformed from the start of the story at the end. This is not just a physical or setting change, but an emotional reconfiguration. What no longer holds them back? What lies do they no longer believe? What flaws did they over come?
Here are some questions I used to flesh out my characters in my urban fantasy series, The Children of Ekhidna and Typhoeus.
Character Bio: Hyacinth Ioannou
Name: Hyacinth Ioannou
Sex: Female Supernatural or Human: Supernatural / Primordial race, Chimera
General physical description: Black hair, brown eyes, olive skin, Greek nose, 6’3, model thin
Town/City she grew up in: The Upper East Side, New York City
Relationship status: Married, wife of Theodōros Ioannou
Current family: son, Vasyl Ioannou
Job: Artist (painting/sculpture/jewelry), business owner (three craft store franchises), Art teacher
Favorite pastimes: painting still life
Favorite fashion designer: Yves Saint Laurent
Strongest positive personality trait: resilient, confident
Strongest negative personality trait: unforgiving
Temper: passionate, passive aggressive, patient
Consideration for others: none at all
Biggest secret: She didn’t start to learn how to read until she was twenty-seven years old; grew up poor and not in New York City
Did she have a happy childhood? Why/why not?: No, she grew up rural poor and neglected. Poor Chimeras are not the norm in Primordial society, so Hyacinth is especially ashamed of her background. Her mother abandoned the family when Hyacinth was two years old. Her father was a farmer and drifted in and out of her life. She was often hungry, cold and dirty. Her grandaunt raised her, but she and her four older brothers were often left alone. The grandaunt was not abusive, but she resented having to care for five additional children & always put the needs of her own children and grandchildren above Hyacinth and her brothers. Hyacinth hated being poor, her life, family, and counted the days until she could leave. Painting was her only refuge. She did leave home at sixteen, never contacting any family member again.
What does she care about?: her reputation, money, power, prominence in high caste society
Biggest fear?: being poor and living on the street, powerlessness, prison
What is the one word you would use to define her?: tenacious
How other people see her: Allies: elegant, sophisticated, intelligent; Enemies: vindictive
Philosophy of life: Always have the last word
Goal/Thing character wants: to return to her status as ruler
How does she react when things don’t go her way and/or when placed in a difficult situation?: She plasters a sweet smile on her face, although internally she’s raging. She’ll go home, assess her options, contact her allies, then make long term, detailed plans to get what she wants. In a dangerous situation, she will try to talk her way out, but her eyes/mind is searching for a weapon to kill.
Most important thing to know about this character: She is the former ruler of the north east American Primordial territory
Favorite types art: Cubist, the work of Georges Braques and Paul Cézanne
Favorite plays: Guys and Dolls; Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Medea; The Golden Apple
Hobbies/Interests: collecting art deco jewelry, furniture and art
Best thing that has ever happened to this character: her first art sale, buying her first home, being elected ruler
Worst thing that has ever happened to this character: being removed from power as ruler of the NE American territory of Primordials; husband going to prison; son’s betrayal; losing everything she worked hard for
Does she have enemies?: Khalil Mansour
Clothing Style: designer power suits; tailored dresses that are sultry, but does not show cleavage
Hyacinth is a fun character to write. Her part in book one, Hound Dog Confidential, is small but she leaves an impression. She blooms in books two and three into a powerful force.
This is the last of my character bios, for now. Previous character bios and tips are here.
Hope you found this week’s post helpful. You can read the first chapters of my urban fantasy series The Children of Ekhidna and Typhoeus on the books page.
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