Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ROOT MISBEHAVIORS: Your Characters MUST Have One

I've been going through my old writer's notes from classes at Chatham University, Writer's Retreats, NY SCBWI Conference, and Writer's Boot Camp in Santa Monica. There's tons of important information in them about creating memorable characters. 

At first I thought creating a memorable character would be easy….not so says my writing and rejections past. It's much tougher than you think and before you know it you have yourself a clich e´. 

Below are a list of root misbehaviors that your characters need to have. They can have one, or multiples. That's up to you but choose wisely.

I have also included some other notes about creating interesting characters that I think will help you when writing your own. 


Once you give your character a root misbehavior then they will grow to be the opposite at the end of the book. Yes, it's that simple. Well, it's supposed to be that simple. 

  • Rebel without a cause = finds a cause and rallies with others to win

  • Ignorant-Naive-Close minded = Sees the light

  • Fearful = Faces their fears

  • Weakness Physical or Psychological = Stands up for self

  • Commitment Phobic = Commits

  • Prideful-Hubris = Humbled/Supplicates


Besides having an understandable misbehavior characters must be interesting --- not your average Joes.

  • Rich but has no TV, not into Music, lives a very sheltered life

  • Someone doing something out of the ordinary with animals - has a cow in the middle of a city and milks it daily for the best milk

  • Child of the streets rescued and raised by traveling circus folks 

  • Adult woman with many responsibilities runs away to become a gypsy

  • Obese person has great friends loses all the weight, becomes conceited then loses all friends


You also have to worry about the arena you place your characters. Where are they? Why are they? What time are they? And it must be specific.

Example: 1970's San Francisco is a good arena but 1970's San Francisco in the midst of Gay Rights movement is much more specific.


Make the opponent BIG in first drafts --- you can always dial it down when revising. But let your imagination run wild when you first write. 


You need to know your character like you know your best friend. What are they into? Who are they? What do they hate? What will they talk about forever? What will they defend? What are they good at? Bad at? Etc…

It's best if you make a list and then fill in the blanks or answer the questions about your character. 

  • Likes
  • Dislikes
  • Fears
  • Habits
  • Beliefs
  • Goals
  • Dreams
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Spirituality
  • Morals
  • Oddities
  • Interests
  • Loves
  • Hates
  • Ethics
  • Temperament
  • Other important personal information


What's in a name? Everything…really. A name gives a character power and if it's done right a characteristic. 

What about Nemo's father…MARLIN? When you say that name out loud what does it sound like to you? Spunky? Tired? Aloof? Depressed? Boring? Exciting?

Names elicit emotions and thoughts. 

Choose your names wisely. You don't want readers to trip over a name, but you don't want a super normal everyday name either.

When I choose my character's names I often look up their meanings on the net. 

This is the meaning of my name below:

Angela \a-nge-laan-gela\ as a girl's name is pronounced AN-je-lah. It is of Greek origin, and the meaning of Angela is "messengermessenger of God". 



When I write I first write with no photo of a character. Then once I have a good handle on who this character is I find a photo on the internet that matches what I've written.

My main character PAYTON looks like this to me: 

Her friends look like this:

Her boyfriend looks like this:

Her ally looks like this:

So there you have it…how I create my characters and how teachers have taught me how to create characters. I hope this serves you well as you write you most memorable characters yet!


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