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Deb Simpson, Author
Deb Simpson : Painless Peeps

Painless Peeps

The simple and fun way to create (and remember) characters

By Deb Simpson

Ok, we've all heard it before: "A good story starts with interesting characters." And, we know it's true. But, when I was developing the people (peeps) in my new novel, I found it difficult to keep the characteristics and quirks of each one in my memory, as I wrote about the events in their world. I first created a spreadsheet to list the key points about each one, but it grew so large and detailed that it was cumbersome and clumsy to use. Then, I tried using an index card for each one, but kept losing them amidst the other notes, pages, and files. Then my daydreaming mind led me to a new approach.

Character Notes

Name: Gina Blair Residence: Egegik Alaska Career Goal: Graphics design Wants to be own boss
Age: 33; bleach blonde; brown eyes, 5'8" Birthplace: Miami FL Business Name: Visual Voice Smoker, beer drinker, likes to party

Marital Status: single
Daughter: Amy 3 yrs.

Job: Waitress @ Igloo Truck Stop; night shift Mother: Flo; Father: John; live in Miami Has love-hate relationship w/parents
Zodiac sign: Capricorn Education: GED Learned graphics design via online courses Internal dialogue:" I never catch a break"

As I was thinking about one of the characters in my novel, who is a writer, I found myself wondering what her website would be like (since I've recently been working on my own!). I decided to create a mock website for her, (mainly because that seemed more interesting than developing yet another type of character chart!). As I developed the public persona for her website (how she would sell herself and her books on the site; what she would say, etc.), I found my imagination taking over. I became excited to think about her favorite color, her likes and dislikes, and how that would play into her website design. I decided to lay out the web page to capture the public side of her on one side of the page, and the more personal details that I needed, on the other. In doing that, I found that she became more real to me. It became easier to visualize her as a person, to ask questions about her story, her life, and what she might struggle with. Although I limited by mock website development to the Home Page, additional pages could be created to provide more detail.

Once the mock websites were completed for each of my main characters, I attached them to a folding cardboard display, that I sit on my desk when I am writing, and fold away in my story box when I am not. (I keep a plastic box for each story or book I'm working on, marketing ideas, etc.) I like this approach so much that I found myself imagining websites for the locations in the story. In two weeks of working with the mock websites, I developed the main characters, the setting locations, and the outline for the novel, and generated story ideas for other books to follow!

I'm always looking for new ideas on how to make writing easier and more fun, so I thought other writers might be interested in this approach, which I call "Painless Peeps".

Mock Web Site

Mock Web Site

Rather than simply describe the mock pages, I am providing an example (see above) of how this could work with one quirky character. I developed the mock website pages for my characters using the Microsoft Publisher® program, but any type of graphics or drawing program would work for this. It could also be done with paper and art supplies. All you need to begin is a list of info about the character (Whatever is important for you to remember) and ideas on how you want the page to look. I used the characters favorite colors, and I added a picture that represented how I saw the character. (Remember, this is for your own use, not for publication, so any picture that works for you is okay to use for this project.)

Start creating characters the Painless Peeps way!

© 2011 Deb Simpson. All rights reserved.

Deb SimpsonDeb Simpson writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She's been employed in the healthcare industry for more than twenty years and holds a degree in Business Management. More »

Updated 1/5/14