Writing Tips
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3 Curious Ways to Build Character: Wisdom from the Writer’s Journal #writingtips #amwriting

When you build a character, you are really fueled by curiosity not answers. ~Andre Dubus III

I believe Andre Dubus III put the art of building characters in perfect perspective. We as writers are indeed driven by curiosity. It is our ‘watching’ of the world, and those around us, that constructs who our characters are and ultimately become. Even in our minds, we watch them, the characters who live in our imaginations.

WatchingWhen we allow the stories in our heads to tell themselves with an organic voice, we become witnesses, and thus stenographers if you will. We find our characters behaving naturally in their environments, shocking us with the choices they make, the thoughts they have, the people they connect with, their mannerisms.

Curiously, we keep our eyes on them, jotting down every detail. We watch. We build. It becomes like a game of Jeopardy. We have the answers to who and why. The story that we write around these ‘answers’ is where the questions come from.

The stories themselves are actually the questions.


  1. WATCH: Take the time to watch your characters perform within your imagination. This doesn’t require actual writing but focused observation. Feel free to jot down notes from what you see but not so much to work your story (unless it is a scene that belongs in the story). What you are witnessing is getting you familiar with the nuances of each character’s personality.
  2. LISTEN: Pay close attention to what your characters are saying during these moments of focused concentration. The tone they use with the server at a restaurant does give you a clue as to how they would or would not respond to their ex if they called out of the blue.
  3. BUILD: Take what you’ve seen and heard during these moments and use them as tools for while you are writing. You build with knowledge. You gain knowledge from learning to understand, and understanding comes from watching and listening.

For some more tips on character building, and character watching,  read my article and writing exercise titled, Coffee with Character…or Tea.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!


  1. Hi Candice – I missed you! It’s been awhile! 😀 I’m glad to see you still up and running and I will soon catch up on Ascension Graveyard. Cheers to you!

    • It is so good to hear from you! Happy 2015! I have missed you too! I have been waiting to read some of your new post and to see how things have grown for you and your writing over the past few months. 🙂 AG is taking some turns, adding some characters and writing them as if they have been there all along. It won’t make sense to someone like you who has been reading since the beginning, but I will polish things up during revisions. I totally look forward to your feedback!

      • And I’m looking forward to finding out what happens! 😀 Thanks for your email – I was stuck in limbo and could not write back! I’m up and running now, though. I’ll start catching up with AG over the coming week – right now I’m just saying hello to everyone. It’s good to be back! Big hug to you. 😀

      • My pleasure! I figured the move would take some time to get all your ducks in a row. Looking forward to chatting soon!

  2. This is what writing is – imagination written down and to create characters that are in our head is kinda cool, it’s making people 🙂

    • Yup! The key is to write what we see though. I’ve tried to change characters into what I’ve wanted them to be and they have managed to stop the entire flight ok w of the story until i wrote what was true to them. It’s the observation that is important. 🙂

      • I can understand that. You need to keep them true to themselves just like we need to be 😊

      • Right on! How do you get to know someone? By spending time with them. We need to do that with our characters 🙂

      • Exactly. I think also do different things with them. Explore the fat reaches of their characters! 😊

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