I’ve been thinking about the question of character these past few days, specifically pondering Jake and Corinne’s characters in Julius. One of the many problems of Julius is that I’ve created two characters that have no tension. They’re charming, idealistic, financially comfortable, attractive and they whole-heartedly support one another. It’s an ideal relationship that anyone would like to have, but in reality doesn’t exist. Couples fight, they get frustrated with one another, they have differing opinions and sometimes the glue that holds them together is more like Elmer’s rather than epoxy.

To add some tension between my now Not-So-Merry Marxists, I used the old “Write what you know about” rule and took a long and hard look at past relationships (short term, long term, romantic and platonic). From there I created a mind-map of all of Corinne’s traits to see if I could see an underlying action that dominated her personality and that would cause conflict with Jake. Jackpot! I saw a trait that could cause her a lot of problems and that could also be part of the underlying theme.

As for Jake, his personality borders on charm and arrogance. Other than that I really didn’t know how to change the relationship dynamics between him and Corinne until I decided to make him 11 years older, edging very closely to that half-century mark—a time when you reconsider values and beliefs, career choices, personal relationships, finances and so forth Once, I made that tweak, it opened so many doors of conflict.

I was putting off this task for a number of reasons—the big one was that I liked my two protagonists as they were. There’s no question I want my characters to be liked, but maybe not so much.

And now a new feature in these posts: a question to readers.

What major (or minor) changes have you made to your characters and how did it change your story? 


  • Rebeca, I always thought Corinne’s fascination with TNT man in her Spanish Asturias miner poster might have been symptomatic, perhaps, of a wee bit of marital boredom, or a vulnerability to exotic, politically impassioned men who might meet and prey upon Jake’s beloved and loyal wife. They’re happy until they’re challenged?

    • Carol, you’re the only one who thinks that J and C are married. They’re not! Corinne’s fascination with TNT Man is connected to her obsession with the Spanish Civil War and reconnecting with her values.

      The marriage thing will come up, but not from Corinne–from Jake.

  • Rebeca, as you know, I had problems with the characters in my aborted NaNoWriMo novel. I’ve decided to do much the same thing as you’ve done with my characters, using the Scrivener character template, which asks the writer to think about internal and external conflicts for each character. Gotta get some fireworks going!

    • Myra, thanks for commenting!
      I’m mind-mapping and putting all my thoughts down on Jake and then I’m going to transfer it over to Scrivener. A lot I won’t use, but I’ll have it as reference.