Category Archives: Characters

Snape, A Character To Study


Mother Nature Network on May 7, 2016 has an interesting article titled,

“3 lessons Severus Snape taught us about life” click here.

(Quotes are from Laura Moss’s article and photo from Pinterest)

“While the character of Snape is Rowling’s creation, it’s Rickman’s performance that brings him to life and makes Snape one of the most memorable and layered characters in modern literature. Indeed, it was his ability to capture the subtleties and emotional depth of the character that allowed Snape to teach us these important life lessons we’ll remember. Always.”

“Lesson 1. There’s more to people than they show you.”

Moss says Snape is often unfair and cruel to Harry and his friends. In Dumbledore’s office, when Harry sees Snape’s painful memories in the Pensieve, we sympathize with Snape’s complicated character.  Snape hides his courage, sacrifice and ability to love deeply. Only  Dumbledore knows that side of Snape and promises, “My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you.”

People make assumptions about other people they don’t know and often about people they do know.

“Lesson 2. Love is worth fighting for.”

Snape’s love for Harry’s late mother, Lily, is strong enough for him to risk everything to protect Harry at the end.  “Rickman’s portrayal of the character hints at the tortured man he truly is, endearing us to Snape despite his many faults.”

Remember how many  months we wondered if Snape was as ruthless as he seemed or if he would end up being a hero?

“Lesson 3. People can change.” Read Laura Moss’s article to find out how she explains that lesson.

I believe people can change and I’m joyous when they change to better themselves and the world.

I want to write an in-depth character like the example Moss gave us, don’t you?

The only character I have written that could change enough at the end of my books would be Samuel, my antagonist in Hada’s Fog. I could write the change in the follow-up YA novel that has the same characters as Hada’s Fog but from Lily’s point of view. I’ll keep Moss’s article in mind and see if I can pull it off with Samuel’s character.


Julaina Kleist-Corwin

Editor of Written Across the Genres

Author of Hada’s Fog


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What Did You Do This Weekend? Watch A Movie, Go Shopping, Or?

Sleepless in Seattle movie promoWe planned to watch The Wolf of Wall Street, but as we finished our computer work, the TV station we had on happened to show Sleepless in Seattle. I thought I had seen it before, but I hadn’t and it hooked me into the story right away. What was the hook? The boy who misses his late mother and Tom Hanks, the father who misses her too.

The Wolf of Wall Street stayed in it’s Netflix envelope until we have time again to see it. Wolf of Wall Street


If you’ve seen The Wolf Of Wall Street, what is the hook?



The next day, I took my parents shopping and I ended up making the biggest purchase. We have a new chair. I enjoy my white wicker furniture, but one of the chairs has a few wicker holes in it from overuse. The store where my mom wanted to shop had a sale and the new chair fit me perfectly. I couldn’t leave it in the store since it was made for me. Now it has replaced the holey wicker.

Wicker with window

Wicker now in extra room.

Hada, from my novel Hada’s Fog, would prefer the new chair.   Jill, the protagonist in my Sci-fi novel, Norman in the Painting, would have the wicker chair in her house.

Chair new dim

New chair in living room










Julaina Kleist-Corwin

Editor of Written Across the Genres

Author of Hada’s Fog



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Story Prompts About Characters Meeting

Miles Apart

The romance genre isn’t the only one to have two people miles apart who come closer and meet. If you aren’t a romance writer, think of a story line that brings two characters together. In a  mystery or thriller, one could be a criminal and the other a law enforcer who knows about the criminal and waits for him to arrive. Make the reader care for both characters while you build tension in the arc.You could show the meeting from two viewpoints in alternating chapters or scenes.

In historical fiction, research two important figures whose meeting makes a difference in their society. Maybe add the difficulty of neither of them understanding the other’s language.

In YA (young adult), two girls who were best friends in school were heartbroken when one had to move away, but a couple years later she moves back. How does the one that remained feel about her friend’s return? Has her life changed and does she wonder if the other girl will fit into her life now?

Similar circumstances can be created in fantasy, westerns, women’s fiction, or any other genre.

Take a few minutes to brainstorm and let me know if any ideas worked.

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Writing Scenes with Gifts

giftHow does your protagonist respond to gifts? If your book is a romance, you probably have a scene where the female protagonist receives a gift. How do you show her surprise, her shyness, her faking that she likes it, or her joy because it’s perfect?

In a mystery or a thriller, does the criminal give a deadly gift? Is the receiver suspicious or duped into thinking it’s a nice gesture? How would you show the response?

I watched a video today about people’s reactions to receiving a puppy as a surprise gift. The expressions of children who have wanted a dog for a long time, had big eyes and a frozen body posture at first.  Many covered their faces to hide their overwhelming feelings, and then cried with joy. Interestingly, very few reached for the puppy as if in disbelief that it was for them. When someone placed the puppy in their arms, they held it and leaned their cheek on the dog. Adults opened their mouths in surprise and immediately picked up the little animal with happy squeals of delight. By the end of the video, I had tears from seeing so many people loving their new puppy.

What kind of gift would you add to your story?

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Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD

chemicals in the brainI ordered this book, Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD. The following is a summary of what the back book cover states about four brain chemicals. I thought learning about the chemicals would be useful in showing how our POV character or the antagonist could be deficient in

one or more of the chemicals, which could explain some of their behaviors.

Dopamine makes us jump for joy. Dopamine feels great so we try to get more. It rewarded our ancestors’ will to explore.

Endorphin helps us to mask pain. Our ancestors survived from predator attack because endorphin caused them to feel good. Exercise triggers endorphin so we can safely reach home. Laughing or crying triggers it too.

Serotonin is stimulated by the status aspect…the pride of associating with a person of a certain stature. It triggers our need for respect.

Oxytocin is stimulated by touch and by social trust. It flows when we stick with the herd and create social bonds. Herds protected our ancestors from harm.

In my WIP, Norman in the Painting, my protagonist, Jill, has a need for more dopamine and endorphin. Her inner fears cause her to love running. Her goal is to run three miles every day. The endorphin rush makes her feel safe. Her lack of dopamine causes her to have no desire to explore. She spent most of her years close to her hometown and has no interest in travel. I’ll make sure she will produce more dopamine that will help her grow in her character arc.

The antagonist has a severe deficiency in oxytocin and serotonin.

Does your character have a chemical deficiency?


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Surprise Aspect of Character’s Personality

Tobias garden of the N. Am martyrs

Jack Heffron’s The Writer’s Idea Book, p.229, a prompt involves showing an aspect of a character’s personality that readers haven’t seen before in the novel. For example, if a character has been kind, considerate, and does everything right, show the opposite in a crucial scene.

Heffron talks about Tobias Wolff’s Mary, “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs” where his character is “very nervous about landing a job teaching history at a college”. She’s been “agreeable, despite feeling a bit bullied by the hiring committee. In her final interview…she attacks, recounting the atrocities committed by Iroquois Indians, describing in detail their methods of torture. The chairman of the committee tries to stop her speech, but she persists, switching to the tone of a righteous prophet.”

The character finally stands up for herself and the reader sees more depth in her. She presented “the surprising side to her personality” because she had been pushed to that point by old “hurts and losses that have nothing to do with the committee.”

I highly recommend Wolff’s story. I read it years ago. Thanks to Jack Heffron for not only reminding me of that story but giving a prompt for deepening our character with a surprising aspect of personality.


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Characters’ Flaws and Fears

RiskJill, my protagonist in Norman in the Painting, has a fear of taking risks. She went to the university closest to her hometown although she was accepted in several that were in different states. She wasn’t afraid to leave her parents or to leave her few friends. The small town in the story is a character and that familiar setting is security for her. It’s thirty miles from San Francisco, but she’s never been across the bay. Her parents and sister, involved with the small town’s politics, told Jill the city was unsafe, and had no redeeming qualities so why bother to go there? Gullibility is another of Jill’s flaws. The one time Jill took a risk was in marrying a charming stranger who came to town and who, a year later, tried to kill her.
Part of her character arc is to overcome her fears. In Chapter 18 that I’m writing now, Jill comes to the realization that her fears have prevented her from moving forward in life. However, the risks she now takes will put her and everyone she knows in danger.
What are your character’s flaws and fears?


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Writing Characters’ Habits

JeopardyWhen writers write characters’ habits, they can show body language like rubbing a nose, flipping long hair, etc. Habits can include lucky objects that a character uses before a challenge like a rabbit’s foot or a special crystal, penny, or any number of choices. In my novel, Norman in the Painting, I wanted Jill, the protagonist, to have a habit that she could rely on to put her at ease.

When she was growing up, her parents favored her older sister and wanted Jill to be like Vivian. Arguments often occurred during dinner hour, which for them, was 6:00. One way she survived, was to leave the room after dinner, go to her room, and turn on TV. Jeopardy, with Alex Trebek at 7:00 became her comfort zone. She could depend on him, six nights of the week. The program took her mind off the parents’ high expectations of her and their disappointments by seeing how many Jeopardy questions she would answer correctly. I’ll have to find the right place to intersperse that bit of backstory.

In the novel’s time frame, she continues to watch Jeopardy to avoid an altercation with her sister on a stormy night and another time when the antagonist threatens her. Following the power of three (repetitions), I will add one more time that she will rely on Trebek.

What habits do your characters have?


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Character Names

character names in heart shapeHow did you determine what to name your characters? Did the names just pop into your head? Did you change the names often? Did you look up their meanings?

In my multidimensional novel, Norman in the Painting, I choose the first or second name that came to me. I decided to look up their meanings and found a site that gives a one-line description for each name. The link is

The names I had chosen for the novel a year ago fit the meanings I found today. The protagonist, Jill, means sweetheart, which she is. Her sister, Vivien, a complete opposite of Jill, means full of life. Viv is an extrovert compared to Jill so it fits. Their last name is Steele, hard and durable as steel, a perfect name for Jill’s parents and sister, but not for her. However, she has felt like a misfit in the family, so it works. Reginald, the antagonist, has a few meanings. The one that fits is mighty ruler, which is what he acts out, but in criminal ways. Jack, an immature friend of Vivien’s, purposely annoys Jill and her friends. The link stated Jack means a supplanter. It comes from the verb supplant and means “to trip up or to overthrow.” In Jack’s simplistic way, it’s what he does all day long.

If you aren’t a writer, it’s interesting to learn the meaning of your name or names of family and friends. I didn’t have time to check other sites. I doubt if the meanings are consistent, but probably close.

What do the names of your characters mean?


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Is Your Character Addicted to Being Right?

Wrong, I'm telling youIf any of your characters are addicted to being right, they would rather be right than happy. They have to have the last word in an argument and proving their point of view takes precedent over listening to others. Even after being shown they are wrong, they still search for ways to prove their point of view.

Characters that are always right are often eloquent, but they actually are stuck. Their focus is on making sure the other character understands why they are right. They explain over and over because they think the disagreeing character doesn’t realize why they are right. They need approval and appreciation. They have to be in control.

Low self-esteem and a lack of open-mindedness and willingness to listen to others’ beliefs underlie the need to be right. Contrary ideas frustrate them. Being right all the time is tiring. It demands an ability to distort facts, to make excuses, to delude themselves and to blame others.

never wrong cartonFriedrich Nietzsche said, “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”

James Russell Lowell said, “The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”

In my multidimensional mystery novel, Norman in the Painting, Reggie, the antagonist, is addicted to being right and he will threaten and kill to be in control. Jill was attracted to his eloquence until, too late, she discovered his flaws.

Do you have a character addicted to being right?


Information from Louis A. Tartaglia, M.D. Flawless!


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