Build Amazing Characters from the Inside Out

What fictional characters stick in your memory? Is it the hero of a tragedy? The lover in a romance? The wizard in a fantasy? Is it Hamlet? Cinderella? Harry Potter?

Creating amazing characters is key to writing a story readers will remember and return to again and again.

Normally, writers start with the outer appearance of a character – hair color, eye color, size, and attractiveness. But what if we started with the inner core – the spark that makes the character step onto the page and into reader’s hearts and minds? Here’s how to build a character from the inside out.

Inside Your Character’s Head

Our minds are powerful. They control how we see the world around us, and how we choose to interact with it. Weasel your way into your character’s brain and decide if your character believes the world they exist in is:

  • Challenging
  • Controlling
  • Dangerous
  • Exciting
  • Evil
  • Harsh
  • Tempting
  • Unforgiving
  • Unjust

Inside Your Character’s Heart

As much as they may deny it, all human beings have a desperate need to belong or to be loved. Look inside your character’s heart and decide if your character is:

  • Abandoned
  • Bullied
  • Expelled
  • Grieving a loss
  • Hated
  • Heartbroken
  • Lonely
  • Loveless
  • Missing someone


Inside Your Character’s Body

Physical survival is the ultimate driver of human action. Forces outside our character may threaten their life. Decide if your character is suffering from:

  • Exposure
  • Hunger
  • Illness
  • Lack of rest
  • Persistent pain
  • Physical injury
  • Thirst

Inside Your Character’s Motivation

Head, heart and body form the core of an amazing character. But none of those are enough to propel the character into action. In order for action to happen, the character must want their life to change. If they are ambitious, they want something more than they have. If they are abandoned, they want to discover a place to belong. If they are in pain they want that pain to end or find a way to live with it.

As the amazing character pursues that goal, they will meet roadblocks and obstacles, conflict and success. They will have a story, made richer and deeper, no matter what they look like.

For more ideas for amazing head, heart, and body traits see Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s:

The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus

Click here for

I love to hear from my readers!

Do you start with the outer view or the inner view of your characters?

Do what characters wear add to the enjoyment of a romantic suspense?

So what do you think? Does it matter what characters wear in the novels you read? Is it worth the time for writers to search the Internet for just the right outfit?

Today I needed to describe the handbag my character Bella Bell, a tattoo artist, carries. The bag had to fit her flamboyant sense of style and be dumpable because later in the story she spills it and loses important sketches. In my commitment to ethical fashion, I also wanted it to be a fair trade item. Read more about my search for the perfect fit for the character and the story on my main blog for Zara West Suspense. And see some of the handbags I considered.

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