Thompson On…Building Believable Characters!

Character Development: Filling Out A
Character Resume!


            Plausible and complex characters are crucial to
successful storytelling. This entails not only the protagonist, but the antagonist
and a carnival of minor characters.

The importance of character development was hammered
home to me at the AJC-Decatur Book Festival when New York Times Best Selling
Author N. M. Kelby did an impressive two-hour presentation on Character

Think of any great book and the main
character pops into your mind: Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennett, The
Great Gatsby
: Nick Carraway, Janie Starks: Their Eyes Were Watching God, To
Kill a Mockingbird
: Scout Finch, Devil in a Blue Dress:
Easy Rawlins, etc. The list can go on and on with many examples from

Your Main Character:

1. Delivers
your point of view to your readers

2. Is
identified forever with your book.

3. Is
memorable and creates lasting memories for your readers.

All your characters should respond to
their experiences by changing or by working hard to avoid changing. As they
seek to carry out their agendas, run into conflicts, or fail or succeed, and
confront new problems, they will not stay the same.

If you want to write a successful
novel, you must create a realistic group of characters to move your plot along.

How do you get to know your Characters?

You must create a character resume for your protagonist, antagonist and a few
of your minor characters.

Think of using a resume as if a
character was applying for a job in your novel. You must complete a resume for
your characters. This will give you the opportunity to get to know them.

For my fourth novel, Purple
, I had to develop totally new characters from the novels in my trilogy,
A Brownstone In Brooklyn, Philly Style and Philly Profile and Ghost
of Atlanta

Before I even wrote a word of Purple
Phantoms I filled out a resume for all the major characters. This helped me get
to know all the people who will carry the storyline in this novel.

Will you use everything in a resume?
The answer: No!

What you do learn is how your characters will react in certain
stressful situations and critical moments in your book.

How can you put your characters in
critical situations if you don’t know the personalities?

You need to fill out a Character
to help find the answers.

I have a character resume form that I
use for the protagonist, antagonist and minor characters.

From past
experience, I’ve learned the importance of developing this resume, which
contains many questions. You don’t want to delve into your book and still don’t
know what makes your characters tick.

Here is an example of a few of the questions in the resume:

Character Name:

Address & Phone Number:

Date & Place of Birth:

Height/Weight/Physical Description:

Citizenship/Ethnic Origin:

Parents’ Names & Occupations:

Other Family Members:

Spouse or Lover:

Friends’ Names & Occupations:

Social Class:



Social Class:


ETC. (Many More

Please email me,,  requesting a blank character resume form and I will email it to you.

I also want to leave you with this thought:

“Keep Writing,

Keep Believing,

And Never Give Up On Your Dreams”





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