Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Memorable Characters by Gail Pallotta

Today's post from author Gail Pallotta spoke to me and had me brainstorming ways in which I could make the characters in my current project more memorable to the reader. -- Sandy

Gail: Does writing fuel the imagination, or does the imagination fuel writing?

Either way, there’s so much to create, especially in fiction. The plot, characters and setting, not to mention the hooks and raising the stakes. 

Fascinating characters breathe life into fiction. Who could forget Columbo in his baggy coat standing beside his near-wreck of a car? Or Superman, James Bond and the feisty Scarlet O’Hara. The list could go on and on. We probably all have our favorites.

More than likely there are as many different ways to create memorable characters as there are writers. Quirky habits, body language, dialogue, actions and even clothing can turn the words on the page into people we remember. A character’s emotions can add another dimension to a personality.

When one’s happy, his or her lips turn up on the corners; sad, the lips go down. Writers often use metaphors and similes to demonstrate the way a character feels inside. In a novel about a circus, a sad clown’s face might resemble rubber pulled down. Someone unhappy in that book could have tears the size of large ones drawn on the clown’s cheeks. Later in the story a happy girl or guy might flash a grin as big as one painted on a different clown’s face.

Courtesy of Photobucket – Sarge
Or perhaps a writer’s working on a young adult novel, and an overjoyed teen girl jumps up and down and claps her hands like a cheerleader. Could a disappointed young man’s countenance resemble that of a football player who dropped a pass in the end zone?

Animal expressions show emotions too. Often I read that someone looks like a lost puppy. It works on me every time. There are plenty of others, such as having someone grin as big as a horse showing its teeth. Another person may peer at something with raccoon eyes.

What do you like to use to illustrate your characters’ emotions? Also, do you think writing fuels the imagination or vice versa? 


Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach Stopped Cold, finished fourth in the 16th Annual Preditors and Editors readers’ poll and was a finalist for the 2013 Grace Awards. She’s published short stories in “Splickety” magazine and Sweet Freedom with a Slice of Peach Cobbler. Some of her published articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Visit her web site at
sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she won Clash of the Titles in 2010. Her teen book,
Blog -
Facebook -
Twitter - Gail Pallotta @Hopefulwords


  1. I think it works both ways. When I'm writing, I'm revving up creative juices. When I'm not writing, just going about everyday tasks and living life, I ask myself questions. Things like...who lived in that abandoned house? Why isn't that girl's daddy at her graduation? etc. Questions which spark creativity. Great thought provoking post!

    1. Hi Dora,
      I do those same things, and I agree. Sometimes when I'm writing I'll think of something I've seen and wondered about, and it fits right into the plot.

  2. Hi Gail, great post. I love trying to figure out a new metaphor without mixing things up LOL . But I think we have to be careful when giving characters quirks and habits. I am mid-read (a non-romance) and keep waiting for the main character to "put the end of her braid in her mouth."AGAIN. Another thing, the character is totally type-cast as a frumpy academic getting her PhD. Sorry, get her in some cute shoes (you can get 'em cheap at PayLess or GoodWill) or a non-gramma-esque shapeless floral dress. But the braid-thing...does anybody wear braids when they're in their late twenties? Sorry LOL She's so stereotypical-quirky and non-original. Sigh. Thanks for the good hints and helps. For me, imagination works first. I am "taking a break" in 2015 but still find myself conjuring bits and pieces in my head in the event writing catches hold of me again.

    Congrats on Mountain of Love and Danger. Awesome cover!

  3. Hi Gail - great post. I like meaphors if they work. When they're really odd, it pulls me out of the story trying to imagine what the characters face or whatever must look like. But a good one makes the story come alive.

  4. Hi Tanya and Terri, Thanks for coming by. Yes, one needs to be careful the metaphors they use are suitable for the characters they apply them to.
    Tanya, thanks for the cover compliment. It was designed by one of my critique partners, Vanessa Riley. If you're conjuring bits and pieces in your head, there might be a book in the works right now.

  5. Great post, Gail! When I imagine my story, I have a tendency to see Hollywood-style, perfect (read that as "boring") people. These are great ideas to make them more "real." Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Angie,
      I'm glad if the post gave you some ideas for your characters. Thanks for stopping by.


We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!