July 26, 2019

Writing Major Characters

By Nancy Roe

Major characters include the people we care about. We love them or hate them. Fear them or hope they succeed. They show up again and again in the story. The story, to one degree or another, is about them and readers expect to find out what happens to them by the end. Their desires and actions drive the story forward and carry it through all its twists and turns.

Twelve Tips on Major Characters:
1.            Major characters have to be interesting and believable enough for people to want to read about what they do.
2.            Major characters need to be characterized. Because they really matter to the story, you can devote as much time to them as required.
3.            Decide on dominant traits and major actions of your major characters first. This helps shape the plot of your story.
4.            The major character should change significantly.
5.            To avoid confusion, have all the major character’s names start with a different letter. Also, try to vary lengths and sound patterns. (not: Bob, Tom, Pete, Jeff)
6.            Keep one name per character. (not: Bob, Bobby, Buddy all for the same person)
7.            What is the character’s internal motivation and what does he or she really want?
8.            What peculiar traits (appearance, personality, behavior, mannerisms, speech) might you highlight to make the character seem fuller?
9.            Focus on the emotional conflicts of your major characters or when the character is put in any type of conflict, otherwise the reader won’t care.
10.        Start your book in a way that gives the story the right tone and introduce the main character. (Any opening scene that doesn’t introduce the main character is a prologue.)
11.        If you’re having problems with your major character, picture yourself talking to him or her. Why are you so annoying? Why don’t you do something?
12.        Stories are mainly about people and what they do. Major characters are the ones who must satisfy the following three questions the readers are constantly, unconsciously, asking.
a.       So what? Why does the reader care what’s going on in the story? Why is this important?
b.      Oh yeah? Would anybody really do that? Wasn’t that too convenient? How dumb does the author think the reader is?
c.       Huh? What’s happening? Does that make any sense? Where are they?

On Monday I will be blogging on Writing Minor Characters.
When Nancy Roe was twelve, she wrote an autobiography for a sixth grade English assignment. In the last chapter, Nancy wrote that she wanted to be an author. When she turned fifty, her dreams came true! And she hasn't stopped writing since.Nancy also blogs at You'll find articles on organizing tips, recipes, craft ideas, computer tips, grammar tips, and unusual holidays. Even her dog, Shadow, writes an article--there has to be humor, and he's a funny guy!  Nancy is a Midwest farm girl at heart and currently lives in Tennessee with her husband and four-legged child. Follow Nancy on her various social media links: Website:

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