Tuesday, May 4, 2010


We all come across some unforgettable characters from time to time. Some may reside in your own family, while others live in the pages of your favorite books. Here are some of my all-time favorite fictional characters:

     Peter Pan (The Adventures of Peter Pan) Who doesn’t love that clever, adorable boy who won’t grow up? 

     Atticus (To Kill a Mockingbird) The father all of us wished we had, the father men aspire to be. (in fact, my daddy was a lot like Atticus.)

     Pilot-Major John Blackthorne (Shogun) A fabulous, well rounded character—plenty of flaws and yet noble. He embodied the misconceptions between East and West that continued for hundreds of years.

     Pip (Great Expectations) Such heart!

     Penelope (The Shell Seekers) A fully realized character that reveals the culture and sensitivities of the WWII “Greatest Generation” of women and the tremendous post war cultural changes.

Each of these characters was flawed, yet each pursued a journey discovering the depth of their strengths and virtues. 

I like to think that crafting characters is like painting. You start with a rough sketch: what they look like, their habits, strengths and flaws. I add a bit of color with tags, speech style, and quirky habits. I add motivations and conflict. As I write the novel, the characters are fleshed out. Like an artist with an oil painting, layers are added for depth and clarity until the portrait is fully realized.

Do not grow frustrated if a character seems to be lacking in the early process of your writing. Remember, no artist presents a masterpiece with just a pencil sketch. You must add layers of brush strokes and various colors before the painting is complete.

My painting, so to speak, is nearing completion. I hope these latest characters make a lasting impression!

Mary Alice Monroe has a new book, The Butterfly’s Daughter, due out May 2011. For more information about the author and her work, visit www.maryalicemonroe.com. You can also follow Mary Alice on Facebook and Twitter.

1 comment:

Laura S. said...

The Shell Seekers is my mom's favorite book. I read it my first time a few years ago. Now that you've mentioned Penelope, I think it's time to read it again!