Creating Memorable Characters - Part 2

Judy Blume

Lesson time 19:13 min

Judy encourages you to explore voice and point of view until you land on a storytelling style that fits your characters. That style should reflect all the details that contribute to a character’s experience and journey.

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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A lot of my characters are outsiders, I guess. I've never thought about that, but looking back I see that they are. Moving to a new place. So I had that experience. I lived in one house, really from when I was two years old until I graduated from high school, but in the middle there, in third and fourth grades, we moved to Miami Beach for the school year. My mother was funny. My mother would not go until she thought hurricane season was over. Nevermind that we had to start school in New Jersey, and then by Halloween my brother and I were in another place in another school. We were new kids. I was the new kid. It's bad enough to be the new kid, or hard enough to be the new kid at the beginning of the school year, but to come in after everybody else, at Halloween, that was something. And I did it twice. Third grade and fourth grade. Although I wrote about it in Sally J. Freedman, and I put her in fifth grade. So it was my experience. I know what that felt like, to be a new kid. So I often move my characters around. I mean, Margaret's a new kid. Yeah, it's interesting. It's interesting to write a character who's the outsider, for one reason or another. Deenie becomes an outsider because of what happens to her. She feels alone and isolated, although she has very kind friends who are with her. She doesn't necessarily feel that, but she is lucky to have those friends. So I think being an outsider is an interesting place to be for your character. Not for you necessarily, but for your character. So in Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself, a family story set in the late 40s-- actually my most autobiographical book, because it takes place in Miami Beach, as I've said I went to Miami Beach for two school years, and being separated from family, all of that was very hard-- but Sally, I think of all of my characters, Sally is the kind of child I was. Curious, imaginative. I despise the secrets that parents and grandparents kept from the children. I hated secrets. To this day I hate secrets, and I think it's because of that. But in this scene the phone rings, and of course, there's always a great fear that something will have happened to Sally's beloved father. That's what Sally's afraid of. But in this case, it's very good news, and very good news is that there is going to be an addition to the family. And that's how they put it. An addition! Oh congratulations, that's such wonderful news. That's the best news, an addition. An addition, Sally thought. What does that mean? It's got to be something good. They're all so happy. An addition? Maybe Aunt Betty has passed some kind of arithmetic test. Now that's silly. It has to be something else. I am so sick of secrets! Why doesn't anybody ever tell me what's going on? When mom and Ma Fanny were off the phone, Douglas said, that's gre...

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.

This has been a wonderful viewing. Insightful, wise, friendly and sharing with encouragement in the best senses which can come from both artist and teacher.

I wrote a letter to myself, something I never thought I had it in me. Thank you for this class. I enjoyed the class and learned a lot.

Lots of great tips but also full of encouragement.

Judy Blume is amazing. Her stories about her own writing and publishing journey has been revelatory and inspiring.


Veronica F.

I also believe that the character's names are important and they have to fit. Finding the character's inner voice can sometimes be challenging for me and can struggle in deciding how to tell the story and which point of view I should use that will make sense.

Molly M.

The way she reads her story with so much love and care, it's the actual coolest thing.

A Learner

no, Judy, it isn't too embarrassing to say that you love your characters. Writing breeds a kind of tri-intamacy between the author, the reader, and the character that is intrusive and thought-invoking and exciting, it is good to love your characters, because then your characters will love you

Robin T.

So glad to hear how many times she changes her characters' names. I always struggle with names and often end up giving them "place holder names" just so I can start writing. Names are really important, but so difficult for me!

Sabrina Z.

Listening to your talk of characters I now can see why my work so far feels hollow. My characters need more realness and depth.

Zenna Y.

This course is getting more and more interesting! To be honest, I didn’t even know Judy before starting this course. Now I’m totally hooked and will definitely read her book :D


Great lesson! Very helpful when it comes to creating characters and connecting with them throughout the writing process. I too find naming your characters a very important part in storytelling; I absolutely love when a name fits a certain character in a story perfectly and symbolizes something about them or their journey. For me, I find most of the names I use from lists of popular and/or unique baby names online, and I’ve found some pretty great ones on them over the years that have really caught my attention.

Mia S.

"When I was writing 'In the Unlikely Event,' early drafts - all of my characters have names that they came not to have by the time I finished the book; the names weren't right. 'Who are these characters?' I didn't know them well enough when I gave them those names, and they change. Myrie became Benny's name, Carol Lee became Ruby. I love the name Ruby. Your names have to be right for your characters. You have to believe that this is who they are. If the names don't feel right, rename them until they do feel right. I don't want to say that a name comes with a personality, because that's not true - but for us as writers, it does have to do with who they are, who they become. It's like playing a part. I always say I used to want to act when I was a kid, and then I wanted to direct of course - but writing satisfies that urge because you have to become your characters. You have to be able to inhabit them, and not just the protagonist, but you have to be able to get into all of your characters. Because I don't believe they're ever all good guys or all bad guys, and so you have to be able to sympathize with everyone and see everyone's point of view in order to make it work. I have a lot of empathy for all of my characters. Is it too embarrassing to say I love them? They're part of my life. You know what, you're living with these people every single day for months at a time - in some cases, years at a time. You had better feel for them. For me, yes, I have great empathy for them -sometimes I don't like them very much, but I still feel for them, and I think that's important. You have to, because you want your reader to, and it's not just one character that you have to know, I'm sorry to say - you have to know all of them, and you will come to know all of them as you bring them to life during the writing process."

Mia S.

"I know when it's wrong for me because it's just not working, it's just not coming to life, it's just not there. It's not making it fun for me, if writing is ever fun. I just can feel when it's wrong, and that often helps me get rid of that. Get rid of that viewpoint - that's not working, I don't like that character, don't like that character's inner voice - I don't even want to tell the story about this character or with this character - and go someplace else and see. Often, that's what it is - just keep trying. I know I keep coming back to this, but in developing a voice, one of the best things that you can do is be inspired by someone else's development of a voice, which means reading. Reading, again - you're going to say, 'Ah, this is good, this got me right away,' and for practice, you can imitate a voice! There's no one there in the room with you, you can do that, you can try it. 'I'm going to try writing it like he did, and let's see what happens. Not a whole book, but bits and pieces.' And by doing that, I do believe that you will develop your own original voice. Names are funny. Kids always want to know, 'Where do you get your names?' In the beginning, they just popped into my head. 'Margaret,' 'Nancy' and 'Gretchen,' those aren't even names of today - it doesn't matter to a kid who's reading the book now; they think I wrote the book just for them, now, today. Nevermind that she's wearing a velvet party dress, it's not what it's about - it's about Margaret, internal Margaret. Names have always come to me easily, except that when you've written a lot of books, it's like, 'Wait, didn't I use that name already?' Occasionally I want a name that I can't think of, that isn't coming to me. So here's a little secret: there used to be phone books. I needed a good last name for Rachel Robinson; I couldn't think of what that name would be, so I went to the phone book and looked down the list R's and found a long, involved, multi-consonant name and that's how I found her name."

Mia S.

"Letters, conversations - that's why I keep the notebook and write down all the snippets of dialogue I can imagine, and then those snippets of dialogue work their way into the book somewhere, usually. Along with that will come the inner voice - doesn't matter if it's first person or third person; still your character will have an inner voice. Voice is really the way that you choose to tell your story. It's not necessarily a person's voice, it's a character's inner voice, and I keep saying this but it's true: there are so many ways that you can tell a story and tell it well, and there is no right or wrong way. But I have certainly gone through periods where I don't know how to tell a story, how I want to tell a story. So I'll sit there, writing it in the first person a little bit, in the third person, trying to figure out - letting other characters talk about my protagonist, until I come up with a way to tell the story. That's the voice of a book. So whose voice is it really? Well, it's your voice. It's your decision that you're going to tell a story in this particular voice. It comes from you, but it belongs to your character. Everything contributes to the voice of the character - everything from mood to how they see the world to their family and their friends, everything. You won't know it all in the beginning, because as you write, you find out. You learn. All of that contributes to the journey to the inner voice and to, ultimately the success of your book. The voice will come to me as I'm writing, slowly. Sometimes, I have to tell you, I think you're better off not knowing too much."