Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Romanian Stamps Postcardphoto © 2008 | more info (via: Wylio)
One thing writers talk about often is how to make our characters realistic. How do we make our characters leap off the page, well-rounded, and unique?

How do you create someone like Hercule Poirot or Jack Ryan, Agent Pendergast or Hannibal Lecter?

While there is no formula or list to follow for creating memorable characters, here is something for you to consider:

Have one of your characters collect something. And give them a reason for doing so.

I think I first came across this on Deb Raney's website over a year ago.

This resonated with me because at various times in my life I've collected different things. Breyer Horses, Cherry Ames books, Memories of Yesterday figurines... My husband has collected baseball cards, coins, John Wayne movies...

When working on the character sketches recently, I remembered this little gem and decided to employ it.

In my current WIP, Stars in Her Eyes, my hero Silas collects and polishes rocks. His mother used to take him for walks along the shores of Lake Erie, and she used to pick up rocks and wonder about where they had come from, how they had arrived on the beach, and remind him how God created the world and that rock had been around since before the pyramids.

When Silas collects rocks, he remembers his mother, he remembers God is the Creator, Eternal, and Omniscient. He is reminded that God is big enough to take care of his problems, and that he is so small in comparison to God.

When I put this facet on his character, he gained depth and became more interesting to me.

Do you collect anything? have you ever had a character who collected something?


  1. It reminds me of Sweet Home Alabama where he collected the glass from the lightning in the sand. I love that movie. I don't think I've ever had a collector in my books, but it's a wonderful idea!

  2. I used to collect bears. One problem about collecting is it gets out of hand because it becomes the go-to gift idea. Now I just collect dust. Fun to write your name in. Easily removed when it gets out of hand and easily restored.

  3. Interesting idea! I'm not a collector, really, unless you count books. LOL

  4. Linda9:14 AM

    I like hummingbirds and snowmen and I've been given many as gifts. Kind of fun to decorate with, one in the summer, one in the winter, so it always feels fresh and fun to bring them out and celebrate the new season.

    CJ's dust collection is hilarious, but so practical.

  5. Great idea! I don't actually have room to collect anything--unless you count books. We toss things mercilessly around here ;)

  6. This is why we get along so--I had one of my young girls collect rocks in my third novel. Oh, she was so cute about it!

    And I'm not even kidding, I collect spoons. Love them!
    ~ Wendy

  7. OMGosh I LUV this assignment. I'm going to incorpoorate this idea into my new WIP> Thank you for making me love it even more.

  8. So cool, Erica! And I unintentionally did something similar in my current book. Now, I'm glad I did!

  9. I collect hedgehog--figurines and stuffed animal versions.

  10. I don't collect anything I have to dust. But I do hold onto decorating magazines for god-awful long time. Can't seem to let them go for some reason. But I haven't incorporated the habit into any of my writing. Good idea, though!

  11. My wife says I collect books (and the dust that goes with them).

    However, I also collect penguins. (Not real one. Just figurines, pictures, etc.) I should apply that to my chacters.

    I do have a character that rubs his fingers across the ground and then rubs the dirt between his thumb and forefnger. It helps him think. (Unlike LSU football coach, Les Miles, he doesn't chew on it.)

  12. Hey, I just came across your blog by doing a bit of blog-surfing, and I'm glad I did! I've added myself as your newest follower, and I hope you'll check out my Christian devotional site as well:

    Have a blessed day!

    In Christ,

  13. The only thing I collect is pottery... mostly mugs. I use them all the time, and as I sip a mug of coffee or tea I am reminded of where it came from, who blessed me with the gift, or the holiday trip when I bought it.

    I haven't considered giving characters a collection, but can see it's one of those everyday things that would help round out their personalities. Interesting idea, Erica. Thanks!