I am skimming the surface of a big topic, but here are the notes I put together for a fifteen minute talk to a Christian Writers group this week. Since I\’ll be talking, I can embellish more as I go. Writing, well, this is the terse first draft. Maybe I\’ll come back and take each piece one by one over the coming weeks. Maybe not. I need to get my own writing done.

I use the word Character to mean people your are portraying in your writing. Even if you are writing non-fiction, such as a biography, you will filter the person through your own beliefs and prejudices, so even a real person will be a \”character,\” since we cannot be truly objective, no matter how hard we try.

Each character will have a unique SHAPE. With this information, a writer can demonstrate motivations and reactions and create more believable characters in writing.

Spiritual Gifts: If the character is a believer in Jesus Christ, Scripture teaches that all believers have a spiritual gift that is given to build up the body. Many lists and tests are available to put your characters through. Each gift has its place in the body, but also has a potential for mis-use. For example, someone with a gift of administration could become bossy, someone with a gift of Mercy could be easily used by others. A teacher could become arrogant. Use both sides in writing.
If the character is not a Christian, S is the Sin patterns that the person is most easily drawn into. Sure, alcoholism, violence, and lust are the big ones, but nice people have sin patterns that are just as sinful, but more well-behaved and socially acceptable. Such as greed, gossip, overeating, etc.

Heart: What is this person passionate about? Lost people? Orphans? Baby Seals? Most people have a passion for something that they will do almost anything for. What does this person want more than anything else, maybe even God Himself? A real family? True Love? A BMW? This is what drives the character throughout the story or book.

Abilities: What can this person do well? Garden? Shop? Fix cars? Anything goes here!

Personality: Again, there are quite a few personality tests out there for you to put your characters through. Be sure the read the results and get the positive and negative sides of the results. The negative will be the most help, especially if the character is very different from you.

Experiences: This is the character\’s life story. What things really stood out? What hurt most? What was the best? Favorite Classes in school? Why? This is the material that the life is made of. The above things will gauge the reactions to it. It maybe helpful to write a short history of the character first, then look at the events and reactions to find out the other things, especially the Heart and Spiritual Gifts/Sin Patterns.

Some helpful websites:


This material is adapted from the \”Discovering My Ministry\” Class at Grace Bible Church in College Station, Texas. The applications for writing are purely my own.