Guest Blog by Thea Atkinson

When I write my fiction, it’s really a bit of discovery for me about who is populating the story. I can say I start with a variety of things and that a variety of things keeps me going, flogging through the first draft, editing the final, but it’s really all about character for me.

Great for Thea the writer, but what about the reader?

Lots of my fiction has subtle plot and heavy characterization. It’s called ‘quiet fiction.’ Not the kind of fiction that would set Twilight readers aflame with passion to buy a Thea novel, but I do think that attention to character is important no matter what the story. Regardless of genre or whether it’s plot based fiction, readers do want to connect with a human being…even if it’s just on the page. It’s ultimately why we read: It’s like hearing a juicy bit of gossip, or getting in on the best of a worst time in someone’s life. Conflict is great—and necessary—but if the conflict isn’t happening to someone we care about, we don’t … care.

As a character driven writer, of course, I think character is all important.

So, who hasn’t struggled with getting character just right? One of the writing exercises I get my workshop students to do is based on my ‘tickle trunk’ (a concept stolen my a childhood television show called Mr. Dressup. I populate the trunk with lots of clothes that I pick up from the thrift shop: boots, shirts, dresses, aprons, etc. and I get them to pick one item from the trunk. Then I tell them that a character is waiting to speak to them, and that this item is what they’re wearing.

We do a few other things with this exercise, but that’s the basic idea.

How can you use it?

Simple: go to a thrift store and select an outfit: too big, too small, men’s women’s…doesn’t matter. Then go try it on. Imagine the character wearing these clothes. What’s going through their head? What do they like about the outfit? What do they hate? Better yet, what possessed them to put it on today?

It’s the meandering through this character’s mind that will help you understand them enough to bring them to life. You might use none of what you think, but it will be there in the pages, in the words, in the subtext, and a reader will say, “Wow. I’m not sure why, but this character just felt real to me.”

Of course, they won’t know why, but you will.

Have fun.

Thanks Thea for sharing your character development techniques. For more information on Thea and her books, please visit her Amazon page at


About Traci Hohenstein

Full time writer, beachbum, and mom to 3 terrific kids.
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4 Responses to Guest Blog by Thea Atkinson

  1. Sibel Hodge says:

    Great post, Thea! 🙂

  2. Pingback: End of Streak Interviews and guest blogs | GonzoInk

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