Buried Emotions Create Strong Characters

By prying into our character’s buried feelings,
we not only get to know who they are, but why.

In the past, we’ve discussed deepening our characters by providing them with backgrounds.  After all, none of us came to be out of nowhere.  We have experiences that have shaped us and made us who we are today.  Our characters should be no different.  But, when looking for the key to strengthening them even further, why not consider not only their experiences, but the emotions these events would have triggered.

Ask yourself:  did you character deal with these issues?  Do they tend to react strongly with little provocation? 

Maybe it’s not even the person they are currently interacting with that is truly to blame for a character’s reaction.  As human beings, we are who we are because of not only experience, but emotion.

Emotion is energy, just as we project energy as living beings.  In fact, any “matter” is energy and has the potential for great effect--positive and/or negative.

Delve into your character’s psyche to concrete who they truly are.  Maybe they had a hard childhood where they were not allowed to express their emotions.  They may not even be aware of they need to overcome this.  Maybe they just never saw their parents cry, and in turn don’t show emotion themselves.  They bury it and possible “explode” to an unrelated situation, or breakdown in private.  These are all things you need to know to deepen your characters, and assign them believability.  Whether or not everything comes out on the page is up to your discretion as the author, but as the creator of their world, you need to know them intimately

By knowing your characters emotional make-up, you as the author will be able to convey them even stronger on the page.  They will take on a breath of life through the words, thoughts and actions they expel. 

Here’s a suggestion that you may have heard before:  interview your characters.  But, as a different twist on this, interview them with intimate questions that really tap into their mentality.  Don’t just ask them why they are the profession they are, ask them what emotion led to their choice?  When they decided to become a cop (just as an example), how did they feel?  Was the decision one that met with apprehension inside--ask why?  Did they have a sense of pride--ask why?  Don’t just ‘scrape the surface’, pry beneath it.  By taking our character analysis to this deeper level, you will not only know who your character is, but why there are who they are.


  1. Great post Carolyn :) Very insightful - I think it's just inspired me to do a few interviews with the main characters in my first novel and see what they have to say :P
    Found you through WLC tweet teams by the way. Have a great week!

    1. Thank you, Rod. Glad the post proved insightful, and great to have another friend over from the WLC.

  2. Wonderful, informative blog, Carolyn. I often think I don't get into my character's inner-selves as well as I could... But I'm learning from caring peeps like you. In the beginning, I gave my characters NO warts! How unrealistic is that? :-)

    Love all your blogs and your books. You're special...

    Hugs, Betty Dravis

    1. What a wonderful compliment coming from you Betty! :) Thank you.

  3. Carolyn:

    Great advice. Often when I am writing, I come to a place in the story where a character is faced with a decision. Since I know the character, I know which way he will go without even thinking about it. But, as you point out, the reader needs to know why the character reacts as he does. We have to fill in enough about the character so that his decisions fit his actions.

    1. Another great side point to this...making your reader know your characters. This is really a blog post all in itself. Thank you for commenting, and visiting my blog.


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