By Kariss Lynch
Few things drive me to crazy story rants quite like shallow characters. I want to open a book and dive in, enjoying the dance of meeting new people. I want characters with depth that make me want to be them or marry them. I want characters with character, grit, vulnerability, and quirks. I want a little spice and personality.
It seems many authors have a formula or character chart they use to discover their main characters. Nothing helps me discover the dreams, struggles, victories, and dark moments quite like digging into the personality of my character. I essentially crawl into their brain in order to talk like them, think like them, dream like them, and even question God like they do. The more I discover about their personality, the more I am able to plot and plan the scenes and story. I inherently begin to identify what they would and wouldn’t do and am able to better identify that a problem in a scene may not be the scene itself but an inconsistency in my character’s response. I know them like I know my best friend. Here’s how:
Google Myers-Briggs and you are certain to find a free test that will help you quickly craft a character’s personality. In order for this test to be effective, ignore your own preferences and start answering as your character with the first answer that comes to your head. The results walk you through tendencies, strengths and weaknesses, romantic relationships, friendships, etc. None of us are cookie cutter people, so I filter these results accordingly.
Next, I use my Strengths Finder book to identify the top five strengths for my character (and if I want to be really thorough, maybe a couple of weaknesses, as well). I don’t test for this, rather using what I have gathered from the personality test, I choose strengths that will benefit my character and maybe even hamper my character within the plot. Often, I will pick competing strengths for my main character so that this is an area of sharpening for both of them. It also helps create fun conflict scenes.
My last step is using a free online spiritual gifts test for my main characters. By this point, I could probably tell you what spiritual gift I want them to demonstrate, but the test helps me think through how that will manifest in light of their personality and my story. Even if your character is not a believer at the beginning, they are portraying a person created in the image of God and therefore will demonstrate some of his traits, even if they are not using them for his glory.
Once I crawl into the head of a character, it’s fun to watch them develop. Through this process, I gain a better understanding of people — myself and also of my readers. These characters will hopefully resonate with many “someones” and by crawling into the heart and brain of my characters, my prayer is that I connect with something deep within my readers that makes them want to search their own hearts and crawl nearer to the heart of God by the end of the story.
Kariss Lynch writes contemporary romance about characters with big dreams, adventurous hearts, and enduring hope. Surrendered, the final book in her Heart of a Warrior series, released in December 2015. In her free time, she hangs out with her family and friends, explores the great outdoors, and tries not to plot five stories at once. Connect with her at karisslynch.com.