Who are your characters?

22 in attendance

Intro - Sam McAdams (samcadams)

  • Write 50,000 word novel in November
  • Now more guidelines rather than strict rules
  • Had to be 13 years old (or have parental consent)
  • Remember to validate at the end of the month (won't come up until the end of the month)
  • Records the history
  • You can keep track of your wordcount on the site
  • Get a calendar out, mark the days when you know you'll have some trouble; plan around those for when you can catch up a bit so you can keep on a schedule.
  • Create a buddy list, connect to other writers (send messages, taunt each other on word counts)
  • Website (nanowrimo.org) has a lot of information; inspirational e-mails from HQ and from us
  • 600K+ worldwide. Reference desk forum--if you're stuck and don't know something, there are people with expertise who can help.
  • Once you sign up, pick a region--you'll hear about events coming up (kick-off party, write-ins, TGIO party).
  • Naperville region: Calendar of events + local chit chat
  • naperwrimo.org - has logistics for local events
  • NaNoWriMo regional graph -- see where you are compared to other people
    • Almost 60% of those who join win!
  • Special offers - sponsors
    • Also, you can get a book printed for just $8 on CreateSpace or Lulu
  • The Writing Journey
    • meets once a month January-June and in September, with a couple workshops at each meeting
    • a la carte writing group, with many, diverse Paths
    • Do join a writing group to keep yourself motivated and writing
  • Library Crawl
    • collect library tour cards
    • redeem them for chances for a prize at the TGIO
  • A few write-ins aren't hosted; if anyone is interested in hosting, see Sam
  • Donate to NaNoWriMo; all these events are free (we don't charge for anything), so donations help keep things going.
  • One more prep workshop next Saturday (Brian Cable)
    • Preparing for November
    • Some libraries have their own prep workshops going on
  • In two weeks will be the Kick-off party in the Naperville Municipal Center
    • RSVP to help us plan
  • Buying products will go to support the nanowrimo.org website

Creating Believable Characters - Melinda Borucki (Willow Sanders)

  • I publish under the name Willow Sanders (two published; one is being edited)
  • We're defined by the choices we make.
  • How do you take your coffee?
  • Are you a dog person? a cat person? or no pets at all?
  • What do you wear?
  • These choices define us as a person and make us a believable character.
  • Think of your favorite book or movie character.
  • What made them memorable to you?
  • How was this memorable attribute relayed to you the reader/viewer?
  • The small details will make the characters rich and 3D and make people want to engage with them and with your written work.


  • Reluctant hero
    • each hero has some things (behavior/mannerism) in common with others
    • each has character attributes that make them different from those in their groups
    • our goals as writers: craft our character, regardless of trope, to stand on their own and be unique to our story
  • Unobvious villain
  • The characters kind of like us

Example of flat writing

  • Betty - doctor, wealthy, no kids, not married, career focused (boring, flat character)
  • Works late, dedicated to her patients
  • Lonely

First exercise

  • Describe your character's hair color only without using any color references


  • Silly quirks that make us who we are.
  • Writing = observation of other people
  • How do your characters laugh?
  • How do they react when someone cuts them off in traffic?
  • How do they react when someone they are supposed to meet is late?

Exercise: Pretend your character is in a waiting room with four other people

Who is your character?

  • The Character profile will allow you to begin to develop a well rounded character
  • A good reference tool to keep your character cohesive
  • Q: Do you have to fill out all the answers for every character?
    • A: No; my two main characters are attached. For ancillary characters, you don't need to do this (some people might). I use pinterest most of the time for character building and story building.
  • Character profiles give you overarching ideas about who your character is.
  • What about the little things? Every character will need some filler information, some situational things where you will need little details. What are your character's hopes and dreams? Do they hope to become wealthy? How do you want to make your character unique as well as appealing to your reader.

What does your character sound like?

  • Forceful voice and persona?
  • Good salesperson?
  • Impossibly shy?
  • Confident when they speak?
  • Voices shake?
  • What are their tells when they are lying?
  • Do they laugh when someone has made an observation of them too close to the target?

Exercise: Write a letter to prospective reader (as your character) to get them interested in their story

Keeping characters consisten

  • Carry a journal
    • jot down htoughts/ideas as they come to you regarding your character or their reaction to a situation
    • general journal to jot down ideas until they become their own story
    • then choose a journal that specifically "fits" your characters personality
  • Use Pinterest to collect all things story & character related
  • "Are you a bro who loves to pin?"
  • Notorious - 11/16 NaNoWriMo
    • protagonist
    • her friends
    • CEO
    • her inspiration (who she is like)
    • Devil Wears Prada meets The Help
    • any website you can pin into your pinboard
    • find people who look like the characters in your head
    • helps you maintain full consistency through your book (good to have one place to go)
  • Q: Last year, in NaNo, I found my main character was awful like me. Do you find that when you write? Tips for avoiding that?
    • A: You will have some of you in any character you write. In my first book, I wrote it specifically when I worked with Eric and Kathy; I was technically the main character (what I want myself to be). When I wrote the second book about the antagonist of the first book, a lot of her ended up being me too. Everyone has different experiences and emotions. I put a lot of me in everything I write. It's not a downfall. There is no rule you can't write with yourself in mind.
    • Comment: I had 8 women in my book; my son said everyone sounded like you except the one having sex all the time.
    • Comment: Put an equal information into your other characters (around your main character) and see how it inspires you to take the main character away from you.
  • Comment: First time in a owrkshop, gathers the inhibitions; many struggles to get the story out (very helpful).
  • Q: Good thing to resist the autobiographical push? Or better to go with the flow?
    • Nothing wrong with anything being autobiographical if that is where you're drawing your inspiration from.
    • Comment: One thing you could do (you don't want all your characters in all your books to sound like you or react like you): you can find something you don't know a lot about and research it a lot. Read about it. This may give you some ideas of how to present a character differently. This may help you give different voices.
    • Comment: Easier to write characters more like yourself (no value judgement). I'm an English major right now. Many people in my classes belittle genre fiction. I've never done fan fiction, but I have heard people say it is helpful to work with characters and worlds already established to learn how to story tell. Similar to use real people you know (to practice). How would it feel to be ... This lets me place more effort in other aspects of my writing.
    • Comment: The problem I used to run into all the time with an autobiographical character is that you don't want to do anything terrible with them or reveal your own flaws. If you can do that, you can end up with a contrasting character people care about.
  • Journey members: order your Journey t-shirts (~ $17)
  • Join the Journey
  • Slack chatroom
  • Book recommendation: Bradbury: Zen in the Art of Writing