Guest Post by Grant Ferguson: The Challenge of Creating Characters Readers Will Love

Today, we have a very special guest with us – Grant Ferguson, author of the Cliftopolis Chronicles!

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Hi. My name is Grant, and I’m a plotter. Wait, if you’re a pantsers, don’t run off. I wasn’t always a plotter. 

As an avid reader for eons, I expected to write books by the seat of my pants. I started my writing journey blissfully unaware of storytelling structure and techniques. After publishing a few books, I heard mostly crickets instead of ringing cash registers, and for a guy wired like me, that was a problem I had to solve.

Frustrated, I vowed to learn the techniques of best-selling authors by reading books, visiting websites, and taking courses. During the lockdown, it occurred to me I should share my database of 3,000-plus writing notes with fellow writers. 

While reviewing my notes, I noticed a symbiotic relationship existed between characters, plot, theme, and structure.

  • Characters are who experience the story.
  • Plot is what happens within the story.
  • Theme is why the story matters.
  • Structure is how the story is told.

I created this illustration to summarize what I found:

It’s no accident I listed characters first. After reading hundreds of Amazon book reviews, I saw where readers often recommended or rejected a book based on their perceptions of the characters, especially if the stories were part of a romance or cozy mystery series.

With that in mind, I explored my notes on character development and settled on four essentials:

  1. Realistic Traits: Give each character positive and negative qualities.
  2. Lifelike Behaviors: Determine a character’s reactions to life events.
  3. Unique Descriptions: Write brief but striking character descriptions.
  4. Distinct Voices: Make a character’s speech pattern identifiable.

Another thing I explored was the Enneagram of Personality. Imagine nine types of character profiles that give you the ability to write realistic traits and lifelike behaviors as your story’s cast members feel relaxed or stressed. That’s the power of the nine enneagram types.

Along the way, I had an epiphany about how I could put together a free character template, one that would work for writers based on their preferences, not mine. So I made templates for MS Word and Scrivener, plus a printable version for those who like to fill in the blanks with pen or pencil. I also included in the free download detailed profiles of the nine enneagram types, along with several illustrations for visual learners.

You might wonder, is it worth the effort to create unique character descriptions and distinct voices? 

Imagine watching a murder mystery. What’s your reaction when one character blends into another, allowing your mind to drift? Did you switch channels?

How about a book where you had to keep looking back to prior paragraphs to determine who was speaking? Did you set that novel aside?

Audiences expect and deserve unique character descriptions and distinct voices. John Gardner, novelist, teacher, and critic, summed up the relationship between characters, setting, plot, and theme.

Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so that the character has some place to stand. Plot exists so character can discover what he is really like, forcing the character to choice and action. And theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody.

I challenge you to satisfy your audience’s expectations by making every character the best you can for your chosen genre. If you desire to create characters readers will love, get the download by visiting The Ultimate Free Character Template and Arc at tameyourbook.com.

May all your writing dreams come true in 2022!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Grant Ferguson fondly recalls pulling his favorite book from the top shelf of the school library—no small feat for an under-tall sixth grader!

Now retired from corporate life, he loves giving busy writers a 7-step plan to write a book readers will love, but hates the fact that few actually do. What really breaks Grant’s heart is how many writers start but abandon their dreams.

He and his wife live in their 1906 building on the Main Street of a small town nestled in the Hill Country of Central Texas. They call it “loft living in the country.” Together, they pursue weekly blogging and crafting, encouraged by their rescue-dog—Rango the CHUG (Chihuahua and Pug mix).

2 comments

  1. Thanks, Carrie Ann! I appreciate the opportunity to share my writing journey with others. May all your writing dreams come true in 2022!

    Liked by 1 person

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