Writing

Creating Memorable Characters - Part 1

Judy Blume

Lesson time 12:54 min

Compelling and layered characters drive stories forward and keep readers wanting to turn the page. But before that happens, writers need to get to know their characters as if they were real people.

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Judy Blume
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In 24 lessons, Judy Blume will show you how to develop vibrant characters and hook your readers.
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There's nothing more important than character when you're writing. And know I think if you ask any writer, no matter what that person writes, it's going to be the same thing because any book is about the characters more than plot or anything else. It's the characters that make the story work. So I would, if I were you guys, really work at developing character. So, how do you do that? You have to get to know who your characters are, and I think there are different approaches. My approach is often is, always, I have to write it to find out who it is. When I start on day one, no matter how much I think I know because I've been keeping this notebook, and I have back story, and I have little details to come and use for security, I still, on day one, I don't know that character. I don't know how that character is going to surprise me. And that's how I get to know my characters. My characters will surprise me. This is good for me. This is very good. So I can sit at the dinner table that night and say to my family, you will never believe what Karen did today, and then they listen. They humor me as if I'm talking about real people, because to me they are real people, and they're becoming more real every day as I find out who they are. That's the thing. You have to know them, you have to get to know them, you have to believe in them as if they are real people, because to you they are. They may only exist in a book, but they are real. That's the only way I think to make your reader feel deeply connected to your characters, for your readers to say I felt that I was reading about myself, or I felt that I was reading about friends, I felt that I was reading about real people, that's because they are that way to you. So character is everything. Without character, there's nothing. So you know spend a lot of time with your characters and getting to know them. And the way that you get to know them can be different from the way I get to know them, but my way is they don't come alive until I write about them, until I put them down on paper. Well, how do you build characters? I mean, what is the character? A character is what you're thinking, the inner voice, what you're saying versus what you're thinking, and a series of details. And I don't mean little quirks that you should repeat throughout like, she licked her lips, and then 10 pages later, she licked her lips, and 10 pages after that, she licked her lips, but you want to find very real details. I once had a letter from a kid that said, you know what I love about your books? They brush their teeth, they go to the bathroom, they do things that regular people do. And I think she was talking about the scene in Margaret where early on they've just moved to the suburbs and grandma comes unannounced from the city to the door carrying bags from her deli in New York sure that they wouldn't have the same ki...


Write timeless stories

Judy Blume broke the rules. Her refreshingly honest children’s books were banned by hundreds of libraries and loved by generations of readers, who bought 85 million copies of classics like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Superfudge. In her first online writing class, the award-winning author teaches you how to invent vivid characters, write realistic dialogue, and turn your experiences into stories people will treasure.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

that its ok to do it your way and let rejections push you forward .thank you Judy xx

This is the most amazing class, I feel like Judy is my best friend and I truly miss her. I am inspired to write and I just loved this class!

I absolutely loved this class. She is so enthusiastic about writing it inspired me to stop and write things down while she was talking. Love her!

Judy is fabulous. She wears her heart on her sleeve and that is rare these days. This class was very informative and narrated perfectly because it was from the heart. Well done!


Comments

Justin

Creating characters has been a bit daunting. I can generally describe all my characters but I need the details so I can bring them to life.

Veronica F.

Bringing my characters to life is one area that I am currently struggling with. It's great to hear how Judy works to give her characters real life.

A Learner

I liked this a lot. I disagree with her on the point about showing emotion instead of telling. I find that one of my character's tries to control himself when he gets angry, but he doesn't say anything. he rarely does anything, except perhaps to walk away. He thinks a lot, he's a loner. I would say that telling brings the reader closer to him than showing a lot of the time, he hides more than he shows

Deirdre M.

Dear Judy Blume, You have helped me so much. You are a wonderful author and I admire your writing skills. I am a very young author, and you have guided me to be a better writer.

Mia S.

"Our Deanie feels that she is going crazy, and she is going to prove it by cutting her hair, and she chops off her hair - in her room, alone, the hair has fallen all around her. She's amazed because suddenly she's hungry, she's back to being a person again. She steps out, doesn't say a word about her hair, and her mother practically faints, but she goes for lunch. That kind of comes from, in my own life, when my father died, I remember all of the people coming to the house and I used to think before I experienced this, 'Why would anybody who is feeling this terrible loss in her life, why would anybody want other people around?' And I understood then that I was terribly sad, there were people around, and guess what? I was hungry. They brought food and I was hungry and I asked myself, 'How can you be hungry?' How can you possibly want to eat at a time like this?' We had just come from the funeral. But I was. So I think that's important - the height of emotion and the ordinariness of daily life. Put them together, see what happens - don't tell the reader, the reader will experience it on her own."

Mia S.

"You can't tell your readers how to feel - you don't ever want to... if I see a movie or read a book that tells me how to feel - no, I'm out of there; I'm angry, I resent that. There's a fine line between telling and showing through your characters. You take a writing class, it's the first thing you ever hear: Show, don't tell. Somehow I want my readers to feel emotional, if there's something emotional going on in the book, I want that. But I don't set out to do it. It has to come naturally, through the characters and through their inner voices, what they're thinking and feeling and what they're showing. It's because of what your character does - it's the action, the inner voice, it's putting your character into a situation and showing us the character, but not telling us ('Jane just felt so angry that she threw something across the room'). You don't ever have to say how your character feels - in fact, we don't want to say how our characters feel. We want them to show us how they feel. You're developing characters, characters have emotions - and it's good to let that come out... or to take it away, and that's another way of dealing with it. We don't want to be pounded over the head with it, we want to find it - we want to come to it ourselves as readers."

Mia S.

"Character is everything - without character, there's nothing. Spend a lot of time with your characters, and getting to know them, and the way that you get to know them can be different from the way I get to know them. But my way is, they don't come alive until I write about them, until I put them down on paper. How do you build characters? What is a character? A character is what you're thinking, the inner voice, what you're saying versus what you're thinking, and a series of details. I don't mean little quirks that you should repeat throughout, like, 'She licked her lips,' and then 10 pages later, 'she licked her lips' - but you want to find very real details. I once had a letter from a kid that said, 'You know what I love about your books? They brush their teeth, they go to the bathroom, they do things that regular people do.' That's what appealed to that child, because I think it was real - you want your characters to be real. I don't care whether you're writing fantasy or dystopian or reality - whatever you're writing - mystery, adventure, the same details will help you make your character in any of those books, in anything that you write with characters. It's all about them, and making them come alive to the reader, which means making them come alive to you. You can also know what he or she is thinking about what's being discussed, and that's fun. You want to have fun with your characters, even in the most serious of books, I think there has to be room for humor. I am emotional and I do let that emotion come out, and I think you have to."

Mia S.

"There is nothing more important than character, when you're writing. If you ask any writer, no matter what that person writes, it's going to be the same thing - because any book is about the characters, more than plot or anything else. It's the characters that make the story work. I would, if I were you, really work at developing characters. How do you do that? You have to really get to know who your characters are, and I think there are different approaches. My approach is always - I have to write it to find out who it is. When I start on day one, no matter how much I think I know because I've been keeping this notebook, I have backstory, I have little details to come and use for security - I still, on day one, don't know that character. I don't know how that character is going to surprise me. That's how I get to know my characters, my characters will surprise me - this is good for me, this is very good. I can sit at the dinner table that night and say to my family, 'You will never believe what Karen did today,' and then they listen - they humor me, as if I'm talking about real people because to me, they are real people, and they're becoming more real every day, as I find out who they are. That's the thing, you have to know them - you have to get to know them. You have to believe in them as if they are real people, because to you, they are. They may only exist in a book, but they are real. That's the only way, I think, to make your reader feel deeply connected to your characters - for your reader to say, 'I felt that I was reading about myself,' or 'I felt that I was reading about friends, real people.' That's because they are that way to you."

Alonna S.

Getting to know characters—and being surprised! Loved hearing Judy's getting to know her characters by writing them down. Finding the "real details" in things readers can relate with like brushing teeth, and when Grandma shows up unannounced with her bag of familiar deli foods. Room for humor. Don't tell the reader how to feel. It comes naturally from the character's actions. Characters shouldn't say it either, we as readers want to find it/discover it. Not: "Jane just felt so angry she threw her hairbrush across the room." This instead: "Jane picked up her hairbrush and threw it across the room." Height of emotion and regular daily occurrence come together (father's funeral yet still hungry).

Bobbi K.

Good lesson. Showing emotion in characters instead of just telling how the characters felt was important for me to hear.