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Writing Books/Creating characters who are individuals


QUESTION: Dear Jannie,

Do you have any tips for writing characters with a distinctive sense of humour when it does not come naturally to the author to be witty/jokey themselves? More broadly, how do you give characters their individual "voice"/personality without letting too much of yourself bleed through into the writing? Are there any guidelines/rules that one can follow as a safeguard against making all of one's characters the same?

Thank you for your help, and I look forward to your reply.

Regards, Dominic

ANSWER: The general rule is never write anything you do not know, i.e. places such as towns and states (Stephen King always writes his stories set in Maine where he lives and Dean R. Koontz always writes his in California where he lives)... as well as story plot, etc. and that can go for characters too.

Make a character profile list: name, birth date, birth location, parents, eye and hair color, height and weight, scars and/or tattoos, education, marital status, children or not, quirks, likes and dislikes, i.e. everything...........

If you cannot make a character have humor naturally, copy real life people with a good sense of humor: let them be your guide to the creation of a character....

Stephen King writes notes everywhere he goes and files them to draw upon when needed, i.e. story plot, sub plots, scenery, circumstances, people and their individuality and character as well as their appearance, etc....

If you do not know anyone with a sense of humor, maybe a TV character on a sitcom or something............. copy their humor and create the appropriate appearance to go with it, i.e. some obese people have great sense of humors to compensate for their obesity, and some women have beautiful faces with exceptional make-up and great hair and nails because they compensate.

Whatever the case may be, there are people in the world to offer every write a canvas to draw upon.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks very much for the prompt reply! I would like to also ask, however, for your advice regarding the broader part of my question. How does a writer avoid their own personality and manner of speech from overly colouring their characters' dialogue?

A creative and natural writer (meaning the innate talent) can create different characters without their own personality creeping in. It's an instilled talent.

If you cannot, then you do not have the innate/instilled talent even though, you enjoy writing. That might seem blunt, but it is honest and a known fact.

No one can teach what you are asking-- it's a natural talent and ability to do it easily.

Each person has multiple layers of character inside- and each person has a dark side within themselves.

You have to dog deep inside yourself and pull those out as well as find people that interest you and use their personalities.

I'm sorry there is no easy solution- you either can or you can't. Writing is a talent just as the ability to draw is to an artist, play a musical instrument is to a musician, singing is to a vocalist............ Talent is talent........ that my friend, cannot be taught.  

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Jannie Balliett


I am a published writer, Chief Editor and own A1 Editorial Service. I teach writing, specializing in novel writing, and creative writing. I can answer most any question concerning writing a book, plot and characterization, tighten the prose, and the editing process, and help advise with publishing and the requirements of obtaining a literary agent.


I'm a published writer, freelancer, and Chief Editor and own A1 Editorial Service. I teach writing for my two Online writer workshops.

Sisters In Crime Internet Chapter, The Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Brazos Writers Group.

Writers Post Journal magazine, May 2006 issue, Augusr 2006 issue, Nov/December 2006 issue and soon in 2008, On A Whim, flash fiction anthology, offered in Barnes & Nobles and Amazon.

Some college, creative writing, fiction writing

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I have numerous clients using my service through my editorial service and numerous members in my Online writer workshops.

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