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Great Characters and Their Defining Detail

When I wrote GROWING GREAT CHARACTERS, I had to think hard about how I and other writers could quickly convey to readers how a character ticks. All of that thinking came down to the concept of a defining detail: one uber-specific fact about a person that sheds light on why the person acts as he/she/they do.

This detail will be the seed from which your character grows in every aspect, from physical appearance to beliefs and actions. And because everything stems from this point of origin, the defining detail is what will make your character first believable, then consistent, then admirable.

Finding that detail for each of my characters has never failed to make them into living, breathing three-dimensional beings readers want to know more about, even if the characters only play small roles.

What detail do you remember about the literary characters you've loved? Do they chew on the end of their pencils? Do they sing to themselves when they're upset? Do they insist on eating only un-bruised bananas? What are the big things those small details show about the characters?


For updates about Martha’s forthcoming books, news and giveaways, subscribe to her website:

BLISS ROAD, a memoir


GROWING GREAT CHARACTERS, a resource for writers

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