Writing tips: Books to help you build a character for a narrative

“Flat and poorly defined characters are hard for a reader to hang out with, just like hanging out with a shallow person in real life is a drag after awhile,” says Lori DeBoer, Writing Coach & Director, Boulder Writers’ Workshop. “In addition, most fiction requires that the characters be larger than life. If you have a character who lacks volition and is responding largely to the events of the novel, rather than driving them and creating some causality, your story will be a bit sluggish, even if it’s ostensibly a thriller.”

So, can one get help in building a character who acts and sounds like one. The answer is yes.

According to DeBoer, one of the best craft writers on this topic is Donald Maas, a literary agent whose book, “Writing the Breakout Novel,” and accompanying workbook offer useful exercises on how to deep character by raising the stakes.

Here are some other books that can help you develop your protagonist’s character:

  • How to Build a Fictional World: A Setting Development Template (The Novel Workshop) by Patricia Gilliam
  • How to Create Fictional Characters: All the Essential Steps Necessary to Create Successful Fictional Characters by Jean Saunders
  • How to Create Fictional Characters (The Novel Workshop) by Patricia Gilliam
  • Character Profile for Fiction Writing: How to Make Your Characters Come to Life! by Cheryl Shireman
  • Characters Make Your Story by Maren Elwood.
  • Take Your Characters to Dinner by Laurel A. Yourke, University of America Press.
  • Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.

(Compiled by Kitaab, with help from Charlotte BoyettCompo, Lori DeBoer, Stella Cameron,Rex Owens, and Grant McKenzie)