How Annie Develops Her Characters

Annie Likes Words

Some of the best writing advice I ever received was this: your characters don’t drive your plot, they are your plot.  Their brilliant or stupid choices decide what the hell happens between the front and back covers of your book, so make them good.  In this spirit, I’m going to share a little bit about how I develop and name my characters as well as some of the key aspects that I think make a character lifelike.

Step One: Give him a name.

This might seem counterintuitive, but I find that a character appears more holistic and more reachable from a development standpoint if he or she has a name.  The first thing we learn about a stranger is his name, so why not do the same thing with our characters?

What’s important here is context.  Where and when was your character born?  This influences name selection because certain…

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Cone Home

I pluck a pine cone

from the floor of pines


and peek

at the tiny world


between the cone’s

teeth. I break apart


the layers,

snapping them


with the same satisfaction

as breaking up


a bar of chocolate,

piece by piece.


I’m swallowed whole,

taking up the heart


of an ant. The people

inside greet me


as one of their own,

feeding me



from the cone’s core.


I’d like to say

thanks and sorry


for the trouble;

doing so would reveal


I’m not one of them

at all, just a stranger


who walks in the woods

gathering pine cones.