Many of us use different character charts or GMC charts, but what about once those are done? Do you really have a three-dimensional character that will leap off the pages to involve your reader? How can you throw in some texture, some color, some unique design to make him or her real? One way might be by choosing a name then going to various sources to see what is said. For instance, here is what Source #1 says about Chase as a feminine name:
Your name of Chase makes you very idealistic and generous, with the strong desire to uplift humanity leading you into situations where you can express your desire to serve others. You want to assume responsibilities and to look after people; however, you can become too involved in other people's problems and tend to worry. Your name gives you a natural desire to express along artistic and musical lines. You desire a settled home and family life, and are expressive and attentive to your loved ones.
This immediately gives me ideas about her as well as some insight into possible GMC. Of course, you are the author and the creator of your characters. They live in your mind and through your actions.
Something we do is to cast astrological charts. See Source #2 for where we normally start. Most of us have a basic knowledge of the Zodiac - Virgos are neat, Leos are proud, etc. So if you have decided where your character was born and how old she is, then you can guess at their sun sign and play with variations of charts. We learned that one of our heroes had been abandoned as a child and raised in an unhappy home when we cast his chart. Slade is the villain of Changing Times Lusting Wild 1 available here but is redeemed in Changing Hearts Lusting Wild 2 coming soon from Ellora's Cave.
Tarot cards can also play a part in your characterizations. You can use the Major Arcana alone or with the Minor Arcana included to gain insight into your character. Try a three-card spread where the middle card represents the character and the card to the left stands for Internal Motivation and the card to the right External Motivation. Source #3 offers a variety of spreads for writers.
Finally, let your characters have wiggle room. Don't box them in at first. If you are a plotter, then plot, but let them step outside of the plot lines every now and again to see if any other layers show up. Your perfectionist nurse might be hiding a leather mini skirt in the back of her closet.
This was previously an article in From The Heart Romance Writers (RWA #177) newsletter in 2003. It's been altered a bit and pictures added for flair!
Leave us a comment and tell us how you make your characters pop! Or if you don't write, tell us what makes a character memorable for you!