Tag Archive | Delayed Gratification

How to create a character

This posting is for writers. In the process of crafting a blog posting for the Write Way Cafe, posting on November 20, I remembered that my friend, John Foxjohn, created the most thorough and exhaustive list of questions, topics, etc., to define a character. This list is below. John claims that very few of these details actually appear in his stories. http://www.johnfoxjohnhome.com/

It seems to me that writing a story is an exercise in delayed gratification, and the effort involved in answering all of these items, for me, gives rise to dozens of plot ideas and twists . The euphoria from typing “The End” is short lived, and the time until a contracted story appears, either online or in print, is so long as to make the actual event an anti-climax.

My latest story, The Jury Scandal, is due out in five days. Watch for the announcement. I’ve only worked on this one since 2006. Egads.

Here’s the list. Please let me know if you use it and how it worked.



How old do they appear:



Type of body/build:

Glasses or contacts

Shape of face:

Predominant feature:

Distinguishing marks

Hair color

Distinguishable hair feature (bald,  receding hairline, etc.):

Type of hair (coarse, fine, thick, etc?)

Is s/he healthy? If not, why not:

Full description:

Physical disabilities:

Character’s favorite color:

Favorite music:

Expressions and this also includes unique mannerisms

Way they speak, words used most often

Mode of transportation:

Daredevil or cautious?

Smokes, what?

When and how much?

Drinks: What?  When and how much?



Type of childhood:

First memory:

Most important childhood event that still affects him/her: Why?




Mother: Relationship with her:

Father: Relationship with him:

Siblings: How many

Relationship with each:

Extended family?

Close? Why or why not?

Does character have child(ren)?

How many children does character have?

Are all children with the same partner? If no, Why? If no, what is the custody

How does character relate to his/her child(ren)?

Which child is character’s favorite? Why?

What is characters most favorite memory of his/her child(ren)?            Why?

What is characters least favorite memory of his/her child(ren)?  Why?
Is relationship with children important to character?

Where does character work?
For how long?

How does s/he feel about co-workers?

Get along with co-workers?

Like his/her job? Why or why not?

Character’s dream job:

Character’s short term goals:

Character’s greatest fear: Why?

What is the worst thing that could happen to him/her?

What single event would most throw character’s life in complete turmoil? Why?

Character is most at ease when:

Most ill at ease when:



How s/he feels about self:

Past failure s/he would be embarrassed to have people know about: Why?

If granted one wish, what would it be? Why?

Greatest source of strength in character’s personality (whether s/he sees it as
such or not):

Greatest source of weakness in character’s personality (whether s/he sees it as
such or not):

Character’s soft spot:

Is this soft spot obvious to others? If not, how does character hide it?

Biggest vulnerability:

Which of the 7 deadly sins does your character fight (or give in to, willingly or not)?
(lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride)

Which of the 7 virtues does your character have (or fight against)?
(chastity, abstinence, liberality, diligence, patience, kindness, humility)

Optimist or pessimist: Why?

Introvert or extrovert:  Why?

Drives and motivations:


Extremely skilled at:

Extremely unskilled at:

Good characteristics:

Character flaws:



Biggest regret:

Minor regrets:

Biggest accomplishment:

Minor accomplishments:

Character’s darkest secret:

Does anyone else know?

If yes, did character tell them?

If no, how did they find out?

One word character would use to describe self:

One paragraph description of how character would describe self:

What does character consider best physical characteristic?

What does character consider worst physical characteristic?

Are these realistic assessments? If not, why not?

How CHARACTER thinks others perceive him/her:

What four things would CHARACTER most like to change about self?  (#1 most
important, #2 second most important, etc.)

If change #1 was made, would character be as happy as s/he thinks?

If not, why not?

Is character divorced?    Why?

If divorced, how many times?

Has character ever cheated on significant other?

How does character relate to others?

How is s/he perceived by…





How does character view hero/heroine?

First impression: Why? What happens to change this perception?

What do family/friends like most about character?

What do family/friends like least about character?
What does friends consider character’s best physical characteristic?

What do people who first meet the character think about them?

What emotions to the character instill in others?

Long range goals:

How does character plan to accomplish goals?

How will other people around character be affected?

How character reacts in a crisis:

How character faces problems:

Kinds of problems character usually runs into:

How character reacts to NEW problems:

How character reacts to change:

Favorite clothing

Least favorite clothing:


Where does character live?

Where does character want to live?

Spending habits (frugal, spendthrift, etc):

What does s/he do too much of?

Too little of?

Most prized possession:

Play musical instrument?

How did s/he learn?

Lesson when she was young

Person character secretly admires:

Person character was most influenced by:

Most important person in character’s life before story starts:


Struggling with the Plot

When I’m writing, I always plot out an entire story before starting. The three-act structure advocated by Michael Hauge http://www.storymastery.com/ works well for me. I’ve got two new books coming out this year with Soul Mate Publishing. The Taste of Her, and The Jury Scandal. Stay tuned for release dates.
I’m stuck, however, with the current story, Her Faithless Lover.

For my first couple of manuscripts I scribbled out several long-hand pages on a yellow pad, and that seemed to work pretty well. Then I tried using Scrivener but gave it up. I even bought a how-to book. I couldn’t get the program to do what I wanted. So I decided to go old school for this manuscript. I wanted to create the plot in such a way that I could view the entire story. Here’s what I produced: 2014-04-21 08.51.12
It’s not as messy as it looks, but I hit a stumbling block after I’d written about 40 pages.

This story is romantic suspense, and one of the cardinal rules for any type of romance genre (I’ve been told) is to keep your main character likable. The problem I realized was that I had her committing adultery with her cousin’s husband. Bad Move. I took the advice of several fellow authors and changed it so that she’s in lust for him, but never acted. And that was fine, except I had her become pregnant and her lover was likely the father. Getting rid of her adultery changed the whole plot.

Now I was kinda stuck with less conflict, less problems for her, and no villain in the plot. Rats! The next step was to go back and create a threat to her husband, a homicide detective. That’s wasn’t too hard, but I’ve got this whole plot to do over. Rats, Rats, and double rats.

Sadly, the weather has finally turned beautiful in New Orleans, and the distractions are legion. Next weekend Jazz Fest starts, and while I don’t plan to attend, I live too close to the Fairgrounds. That means BIG traffic jams with lots of foot traffic and no place to park if should go out. My driveway saves part of that, but we have four cars for the crowd living in my house (my two adult sons, a daughter-in-law, and adult grandson). Worse, people walking and talking outside has my three dogs bark at them here beside my computer. The shortage of peace and quiet almost makes writing impossible.

Enough of my bitching. If you’re a writer, tell me how you rework your plots when you hit a stumbling block. And if you’re not a writer, good for you. Enjoy the beautiful spring weather.

Snow White’s Curse

If any of you are seamstresses, quilters, or otherwise engage in the needle arts, you’ve probably pricked your finger at one time or another. I did it today. The first time in I can remember ever. With my sewing machine, I am piecing a quilt for my husband’s niece. It’s a simple pattern – sewing strips together with assorted fabrics and then cutting them into squares.
But the *&$#@ machine unthreads itself when I start a new strip. I have to grab the end of the thread and tug out a couple inches more before starting. This afternoon I was grabbing the thread from under the needle when I accidentally dropped my foot on the foot pedal and POWIE. I jerked my finger away and managed to scratch a deep cut in the pad of my first finger, right hand. Pooey. I even bent the needle. But unlike Snow White, I didn’t fall into a coma waiting for a prince’s kiss to awaken me. Just had to get a bandaid to stop the bleeding before I bled on the fabric.
So advice to all you machine sewers – keep your foot off the pedal when fooling with the needle thread. DUH.
I guess my time had come. I’ve been sewing stuff since I was a kid. Took home ec in high school- Do they even teach that anymore?? I learned to make jackets and dresses and blouses for myself and my daughter–including bound button holes. Very proud of that skill.
But for the last ten years I’ve been making quilts – have done about 30 of them for all my family and my husband’s family. This one I’m working on now is the last one for family. Everybody has at least one quilt. I have 3 for my own bed.
The best thing about sewing is that you get to see a finished product (might take a while for a king-sized quilt), but if you persist, you have one finished. Writing and publishing is so much delayed gratification that by the time something’s in print or posted on line, you’ve nearly forgotten about it. I published research stuff as a sociologist when I was on the faculty at a university here – pubs showed up as much as a year or more after you’re finished. I’ve just recently gotten a contract offer for a short story that I wrote, and it’s probably going to be sometime late next year before it’s available. I promise you this quilt will be long finished before Mardi Gras in New Orleans. But I love it – writing and quilting — it’s a wonderful life.
Will post the details of the publication when I know more.


Thanks for reading, and all you seamstresses and quilters, leave a comment about your favorite things to sew.