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Arts & Entertainment

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.

Judy Blume
Teaches Writing
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.


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

You are Life in it's most authentic form Judy. I love you, for being true to you and US (Life).

Thank you so much Judy. I'm a big fan of your book and now I'm your student !

Judy Blume is the best! Fantastic and sound advice, from starting the process to repeating the benefits! I am going to re-watch this starting right now!

Character development is super important, especially using the dialogue to add value and depth. It's okay to be messy with ideas, make notes, write everything down. Stay out of trends. Create emotional connections.


Suzanne H.

Loved it! I grew up on Judy Blume books. I revered them. They were a bible in puberty to guide and inspire me. This class did it again. I felt like you were talking to me, just like your books. You inspired me and your heartfelt discussion of your characters touched that part of my childhood and brought it all back. A great trip down memory lane and great advice. It was a pleasure. Easy to listen to. I couldn't get enough. I was struggling with a book and your classes guided me. Well done.

Corina B.

In 'just as long as we're together', I felt sooo emotional in the scene at the shop where they're trying on clothes and then Rachel and Steph have this big argument. it was so sad! I could've cried!

A fellow student

It's interesting that different writers, even on this site, all have different viewpoints on what's important. RL Stine doesn't see characters as people. Aaron Sorkin thinks of plot as all important and the characters are just instruments of conflict. However I think the more attention you pay to something the more it starts to shine in your work.

AuthorSheryl C.

I had to pause the video. I remember so much when I start writing and for some reason my family around me start listening to me about my characters. In 2008, it really started. I was trying to write this spicy book about a fashion designer. Gustave had a lot of conversations like he was my guy. My older sister even got into listening to my story about him and Cher. So I notice when people let you bring characters to life even while eating you might have character. I never finished the book or screenplay to that story. I jump on board of others of my intellectual ideas. I don't know if going back in time to get that one before its gone. My Flower Moon got must of the younger grouper but I need to learn to be a better writer.

Anna-Maria B.

I really enjoyed listening to this episode! It felt very true to heart, I will try having the character write a letter to me now!

Anna-Maria B.

I took so many notes during this class! Thank you for such great input! I definitely will take up the advice given in this episode!


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.