Mar 6, 2012

An Allergy Can Develop a Character

By Leesa Ostrander

Recently, I was told I have an allergy to chicken.
Yes, chicken.
After over a year of strange physical ailments, debilitating hives, itching and a number of other symptoms, the allergist decided to have me stay away from all chicken products. This meant a complete change in my eating and facial products.
Who knew chicken is in lipstick and other facial products? I didn’t.
Since the change, my face is not swollen and I am mostly hive-free.
Why am I sharing this?
I am sharing a piece of a hidden part of my character.
One of the last books I read left me confused and the first half I wondered why one of the supporting character’s kept acting cold and distant. The characters were important to the story and I had to wait until the last chapter to find out why. I did not truly know the character until the end of the second book.
This is difficult as a reader.
A suggestion to alleviate this confusion with the reader is to conduct a thorough character interview for all characters, even the minor ones.
The process of planning and research is crucial before the story can fully develop. The character may add a small dynamic that may not be there if the author does not know the character.
When I read this book, I was dealing with my health aliments and had characterized the moody character extremely different than the author intended. I thought she was having self-inflicted emotional depression from an eating disorder. Quite the contrary!
Turns out she was a fallen angel.
Never did I see this development coming. The back of book did not mention angels or fantasy.
Sometimes, we create our characters living the fears we internalize. Other times they develop a personality and past we, as the author, know nothing about. Either way, the character needs to show the background so the reader does not have to guess. If you don’t know your character neither does your reader.
Now, back to the chicken allergy, my daily struggle has created a different me. I am different than I was a year ago. This is the same as my characters. The interview has helped me to find out what created them and how they fit in the story.

I found a neat article on about getting to know your character, if interested it is Getting to Know You: Unstructured Character Interviews here 


  1. Interesting thought. It's so true.

    I'm glad you figured out your allergy :)

  2. Wow. Glad you figured out the allergy thing. That must have been miserable to go through.

    I really appreciate the thoughts on character development. Thanks!

  3. Great! I needed to hear this. My character is giving me fits because she seems to one dimensional. Maybe she is supposed to be right now.


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