On The Bench

How we develop our characters

How we develop our characters - Authors on the Bench May 2024

How do you develop your characters? Do you draw from people you know, or are they entirely fictional?
  • Terry Ambrose:

    It may sound strange, but I look to the stars to develop my characters. No, not the famous-people type stars, but the astrological-sign type. Names, dates of birth, sex, and demographic qualities are largely completely random. There are times when I have to intervene and tweak things because those random traits become too similar. What I love about this method, however, is that I get to meet new characters who have personality traits and characteristics I might never have imagined.

  • Nancy J. Cohen:

    Most of my characters are entirely fictional, although on occasion, I’ll base one on somebody I know or have met in passing. It helps when the setting provides the suspects, as it did in Star Tangled Murder where the crime takes place at a living history village. I based those characters on the role-playing actors at the village.

  • Debra H. Goldstein:

    I am an honest thief who steals characteristics from people I meet, have read about, or imagine. Once I have the idea, I let the characters tell me where they want to go — so, yes, I hear their voices.

  • Cheryl Hollon:

    I use a Frankenstein-type process where I take particular characteristics from several people that I know reasonably well and then I combine them to form a new character.

  • Maggie Toussaint:

    My characters are blended. I may start with a person I know, an obituary I’ve read, or even an Enneagram profile of personality types. However, sometimes characters have a mind of their own and let me know they’re in charge. I give nearly all my suspects means, motive, and opportunity and rely on the story to let me know who is the guiltiest of my suspects.

  • Lois Winston

    Many of my characters are drawn from people I’ve known or observed. The most obvious is Lucille, Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law from my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. With a few exceptions, she’s very much like my own, now deceased, mother-in-law. My sons are convinced that Anastasia’s sons are patterned after them, but Anastasia’s sons get along much better than my sons did at that age. Most of the other characters in my books are a combination of various people or have sprung completely from my imagination.

That's it for us! Now that we've given up our secrets, we'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment and tell us some of your favorite fictional characters. Or let us know if you've ever recognized yourself in a book!


3 thoughts on “How we develop our characters

  1. Good morning everyone!
    I loved reading your answers.
    I have been know to dress up like Dorthy from the Wizard of Oz a few times . lol!!!
    Hope you all have a wonderful week.
    Sherry Brown

  2. Such great ideas. I am working on a cozy and am realizing just how challenging it can be to really “flesh-out” a character. I am trying to be quiet enough to see if they will talk to me.

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