Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What's Inside Your Character's Head?

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

I’d like to introduce you to a few of my friends.

This is Anna, the younger sister in Frozen. Sincere and optimistic. She’s full of love and a sense of adventure. But caring for her sister causes her to attempt a dangerous mission. A strong heroine, but avoid telling her no.

This is Elsa, the older sister in Frozen. Kinda hard to get to know because she’s afraid, mostly of herself. Rather stiff. Isolated. High maintenance when you consider she thinks she prefers the cold.

This is Woody, a nice cowboy kinda guy from Toy Story. Easy going. Takes life slow unless an emergency rises. Walks like he was born in the saddle. Dresses pretty much the same everyday. Low Maintenance.
This is Buzz - Buzz Lightyear to be precise. He’s a 21st century kinda guy. His favorite phrase is “To infinity and Beyond.” Superhero. Walks with confidence. Knows the value of a smile. Somewhat high maintenance when you consider he likes to be in the spotlight.

This is Mr. Potato Head, a man of many disguises. All he has to do is change his eyes, nose, mouth, hat or shoes, and he steps into a new role. Versatile. Low maintenance unless he chooses to be Mrs. Potato Head. Then you need to deal with hormones.

Snow White - Everyone loves her. Miss Perfect. Always says and does the right things. High maintenance considering she needs a prince and 7 dwarfs to meet her needs. And she’s picky about apples.

TinkerBell - Now here’s a character with definition. She has strengths and weaknesses, goals and desires. Courageous. Knows how to analyze a situation. Basically low maintenance.

My friends have unique personalities. They show me who they are by how they physically, mentally, and emotionally react to the events around them. That’s how they become my heroes and heroines.

But what happens when one of my animated friends is picked up by a child who has a vivid imagination? That’s when the fun starts. A child has no rules to play except to make the character real, no dilemma changing a toy’s persona to match a personal game of make believe. And we writers are no exception. Unfortunately many of us have squelched our childlike imaginations, so we have to work to get the world of make believe back. I want to give you a few tools to help you create dynamic characters.

The best way to get inside a character’s head is decide who, what, where, when, why, and how. Just like a party invitation.
  • Who? This involves the most work. But once this part is established, the rest of the questions are fairly easy to answer.
  • What? What is the character’s role in your story? Does he or she like their role? Did you ask him/her that question?
  • Where? Where does your story take place? How does your setting effect the characters and story line?
  • When? What’s your time period? This is crucial so you can establish a culture and vocabulary.
  • Why? Why this character for your story? If he is a protagonist, what traits give him a heroic quality? Does he even know he possess heroic qualities? What about your antagonist? Was he born with a desire to stand in the way of a protagonist’s goals?
  • How? How will your character move throughout the story? What will your character do to achieve his goals?
Getting inside your character’s head is not so difficult as long as you’re willing to spend a little time with him/her/it. Take the character to lunch. Play a round of golf. Once you think you have your answers, put the character in the middle of “what is the worst possible thing that could happen.” Sit back, let your fingers fly, and go deep inside your character’s head. But let me warn you, the deeper you go, the closer you get to the character’s heart. And oh the secrets you learn.    

Let’s share a few tips. How do you get inside your character’s head?

Leave a comment below to be entered into a drawing for DiAnn's newest book. 


by DiAnn Mills

Two murders have rocked the city of Houston. Are they the work of a serial killer, or is a copycat trying to get away with murder?

That is the question facing Special Agent Bethany Sanchez, who is eager for her new assignment in violent crimes but anxious about meeting her new partner. Special Agent Thatcher Graves once arrested her brother, and he has a reputation for being a maverick. Plus, their investigative styles couldn’t be more opposite: he operates on instinct, while she goes by the book.

When hot leads soon fizzle out, their differences threaten to leave them deadlocked. But an attempt on their lives turns up the heat and brings them closer together, and a third victim might yield the clue that will help them zero in on a killer. This could be the case of their careers . . . if they can survive long enough to solve it. 


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at


  1. Thanks so much, DiAnn, for such a fun way to get to know my characters. Thank you, too, for the time at the Novel retreat last week. It was a great...especially the brainstorming. Have a blessed day.

  2. This is my favorite part of the whole writing process ... discovering my characters, learning the lie the believe, their past wound, what shaped their worldview. And reading this post, DiAnn, I even got an idea for a character who has been hovering around the edges of my mind. Thanks!!

    1. We see them - feel them observing us - everywhere!

  3. Thanks for giving some structure AND creativity to defining my characters. I had written a couple of pages about a few of the main ones, but now I can add to my story by doing so with other characters and expanding what my notes say about the ones I've already worked on. Because I have a series in mind, I'm keeping a binder of characters - the constant ones and the story-specific ones. I saw the value in doing this FIRST, and now I have some ways to do it better. Thanks.

    1. Jay, I like the idea of a binder! Good call.

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  5. One of the best pieces of advice I received was giving your character an interview, allowing them to do most of the talking, of course. It's a fun exercise and allows your character to reveal who they are. The tools you give in this post are crucial to this process.

    1. The fun part of an interview is we writers can do it anywhere!

  6. Thank you, DiAnn. Although you taught me this a couple of years ago, it's a great reminder. I think characters can be the most important aspect of a story. But if we don't know them well, our stories will suffer until we do.

  7. Great reminder. It's true that once you get to know your characters, they take on a life for themselves and run with it.

  8. Many thanks for commenting! Now to see who wins a copy of Deadlock!