Writerly Wednesdays

The Truth About Authors’ Characters

We’re writers, so, characters are important. In fact, our characters are so real that our spouses are jealous, parents are confused, children are impatient, and siblings avoid us in the hallway.

Characters hold immense significance. However, it’s crucial not to overlook the absurdity of our situation. Our imaginary friends, while captivating, should not overshadow our real relationships, which are equally, if not more, important. 

Here are a few practical tips for managing the coexistence of the real and imaginary worlds within your mind.

Stay calm, especially when you’ve had a eureka moment for your character. Jumping up in a church missions meeting and yelling, “So that’s why your promiscuous behavior is so infamous…your mother rejected you, and you’re looking for someone to replace her!” can lead to embarrassing talks with church administrators. Jot down the thought quickly and move on.

Divide your time in your mind with an imaginary thick pen between fiction and reality. Just because you must spend time with your characters to write well doesn’t mean spouses, parents, friends, and strangers must spend time with them. You may find they’re not interested, which is disheartening. I’ve found if I must tell someone about my character, I create another character who is equally fascinated by my imaginary friends and talk about it with them. 

Let your real friends comfort you. Stoicism may come from working through your own personal issues with your characters, but others will find your perfection irritating. I think your perfectionism is irritating. Let us help.

Do not discuss murder methods with your characters in public. For example, in the church hallway, when prepping to speak to 2nd graders and your characters appear, do not mention aloud the following methods of death: cement shoes, taking someone to the farm, ballistic therapy, tango down, the number 187, or Kevorking anyone. We understand—we really do—but you’ll find your sphere of influence at church shrinking. 

Allow your characters to take a role in your life, but do not set a chair at the table for them. Don’t drive them to appointments unless you’re already going there. It’s okay to fill out job applications for them, but don’t submit them to your company. Don’t tell anyone your crazy new idea for a hairstyle comes from your protagonist. And for goodness sake, don’t let them drive.

Be thankful we have so many exciting people in our lives, real and imaginary. But take care, my friends. The real world is scary. 

Not all views expressed are those of every member of ICW.


  • Peter Leavell

    Peter Leavell, a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and a MA in English Literature, was the 2011 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author, along with multiple other awards. An author, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband, and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

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One Comment

  • Lisa Michelle Hess

    It’s embarrassing to admit, but mostly my family just ignores what I’m saying unless I look at them and say their name before I begin speaking. Otherwise, they just figure I’m talking to my characters…;)

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