TV Land ~ Writing Characters That Feel Real

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By April McGowan

tvI have a confession. I love television. I’m an author, and I’m only supposed to love the written word (I’ve heard that a bunch of times) and shun the boob-tube (pssst all those episodes are written by writers!). But, you see, I can’t. When I was a kid, I was addicted an avid watcher. I think I could even go so far as to mention my parents didn’t really need a TV Guide. They had me. I knew what was on, when it was on, and who would be on it. Cop shows, dramas, romances, monster flicks, comedies, mysteries. And don’t get me started on movies. Even the old black and white films (much to my children’s surprise). Believe it or not, this led me to a love of reading and eventually, writing. That probably sounds counterintuitive, but follow along.

TV was my first introduction to story. Tell it fast, keep it interesting, keep the lead, wrap it all up in 2 hours or less. Perfect! I loved stories. I loved thinking of the shows after they were over, of reading backstory on them, of delving into their worlds. I have watched some of my favorite episodes and movies so many times I’ve lost count and can quote the lines with the characters! I also loved re-reading my favorite novels, finding authors and devouring all they’d ever written.

After I started writing, I realized how close acting is to the author. The light went on! A perfect blending of my two passions! I mean, I don’t relish getting up in front of someone on stage—that’s not my thing. But, when you write, you’re pulling on a character, stepping in their shoes, imagining being in their circumstances. Writers do that all the time. And if you do it well, the character you are portraying becomes real to the reader.

Making the character real happens differently for everyone. In my case, I find photos of what I think he/she looks like. I write extensive notes and backstory about their lives. I name them, their families, their neighbors. I do sketches of their houses, their cars, or other important objects in their lives. I get to know them. When everything is just right, I pull them on, plop them into a situation, and start to write. Because, now I know them, I know how they’d react, what they’d say, and just how they’d say it. Although, just as an actor loses themselves in a part, that happens to me, too. Sometimes my characters do or say things rather unexpected. That’s when the magic occurs. That’s when they’ve become more real than ever.

Who are your favorite characters, and what makes them real to you?

April McGowan loves to read and write inspirational fiction. Her novel, Jasmine,  is out now on ebook and will be released to paperback in September. She and her husband, two children, and her ‘mews’, Spookers, live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. April is a member of Oregon Christian Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not writing, homeschooling her two children, or playing board games, you might find her at her drum kit, imagining she’s on a world tour. Hey, it could happen. Follow her blog at


~Faith and Fiction~  

Jasmine releases in June 2013 to digital format, September 2013 to paperback

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What readers are saying about Jasmine:

“This book is one I will long remember, and I’ll remember Jasmine and the women she helped. I’ll wonder what they are doing and how they are…The story is that real.”

“A beautiful story of rescue and redemption.”

“Jasmine is a deep, poignant story which provides hope and help for any who’ve suffered from abuse.”

“This book had me on the edge of my seat.”

“I give Jasmine 5 stars.”


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