A Story Needs People

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Characters, Friends of ACFW, tips, writing 2 Comments

by Ann H. Gabhart

“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.” (Berkeley Breathed)

As a writer I have become emotionally involved with many characters that only came into existence because I imagined them and set them down on a story trail. As I chase after them, I sometimes only see to the next turn and can’t wait to find out what my people may or may not do when they round the story curve and face whatever challenges await them. To make them believable, I must know my story people like family. Only then will I be able to share their life adventures.

I start out coloring in some basics about each character’s appearance. Eye color. Hair color. How tall. What age. Oh, and the right name. It has to fit the person, the setting and the era. Those facts are necessary, but just as important are what my people dream and want and whether they will overcome the difficulties that stand in the way of those objectives. I must know them so well I can imagine their response to all kinds of situations from something as trivial as not having their favorite tea for breakfast to something far from trivial like a friend’s betrayal or a loved one’s death.

Since most of my books are historical fiction, I have to keep my people true to their era in not only how they dress and their occupations, but also how they think. What is acceptable thinking now might be far from acceptable in the past.

In the process of populating my current release, River to Redemption, I had to keep all that in mind for not only my viewpoint characters but also for my secondary characters and even those who only had walk-on appearances in the story. An extra challenge for this book is that my story centers on the actions of an actual person during the cholera epidemic of 1833. While all my other characters are from my imagination, Louis was a slave who once walked the streets of the little Kentucky town of Springfield. But because I uncovered only a smattering of information about him during my research, I had to bring him to life by imagining what he might have been like from those few clues I found in Springfield’s history.

I want my characters to leap off the page and become real in the reader’s mind so that they will not only “see” my story people but care about them as well. I hope they will wonder about what happens to them after the end of the book. That’s what I want from the books I read for pleasure–to become emotionally involved with the characters and live the story. Great characters make reading and writing fiction fun.

How to create great characters to make reading and writing fiction fun? @AnnHGabhart #ACFWBlogs #writing #amwriting Click To Tweet

Ann H. Gabhart has over thirty novels to her credit, including her Shaker series, historical novels and mystery (as A.H. Gabhart). She has three children and nine grandchildren and enjoys country life in Kentucky. Visit www.annhgabhart.com to find out more about Ann and her new release, River to Redemption.



Comments 2

  1. I admire your mind and being able to make your characters definitely leap off the page . I love to become so involved in a story that at times throughout the day I’ll be thinking of the people as though the situations are real. You are s very talented writer and I’m glad I stumbled across your books.

  2. It’s interesting how easily it is to think of our fictional characters as real people. Over time some become so real we believe they actually existed. For example Scarlet O’hara and Rhett Butler.

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