Crafting Compelling Characters

By Tamara Ferguson

In creating unique and diverse characters, I take into account the age group of the readers I’ll be targeting, as well as the genre. I invent history for my heroes and heroines, and build on this history as my story proceeds.

I use visual and sensory images to develop my characters, respectively, from the heroes’ and heroines’ viewpoints, and give them flaws and quirks to make each of them more interesting; because I want my readers to like and sympathize with them.

I include a tiny element of magic in each of my romances. My stories are all about hope.

Here are some tips to help you develop characters:

Target Your Audience

New adult romance is usually meant to attract a younger reader, while contemporary encompasses a slightly wider group. Wounded warrior romance has a little broader scope, because it sometimes involves extra research.

Invent History

New adult characters usually don’t have quite as much life experience—although, sometimes, there’s a devastating event in their lives—like a parents’ divorce, or a romance breakup. Usually I save the more complicated individuals for my wounded warrior and suspense series’—they have difficulties coping mentally and physically with their wounds, or maybe they’re dealing with past abuse.

Adding Complexity

In one of my novels, the hero is a police chief, and a former detective who worked in New Orleans. The first impression, I give my readers about Sam’s ex-wife, is that she’s a woman who doesn’t care about anyone but herself. But why would someone as intuitive as Sam have married Vanessa in the first place, if she was as selfish as she appeared? Little by little I reveal Vanessa’s secrets, so that the reader can come to see the woman that she really is, and even come to sympathize with her.

Visual and Sensory Support

I usually do this, respectively, through the hero and heroine’s eyes, and build it up even more through the story. The heroine might merely be pretty at the beginning of the story, but she gradually transforms to become incredibly beautiful by the end. After all, since the characters are falling in love, they’re looking at each other differently than an outsider would.

Creating Flaws

Some of the men I’ve written about have been womanizers—some of the women aren’t proud of their pasts. These are examples of what makes a character human. Build their secrets and regrets into your story.

Create Identity

Give your character a hobby, a pet — do everything in your power to make the reader like your primary characters and even evoke sympathy for them.

Rolling his eyes, Luke shook his head with resignation, wrapping his arms around the puppy like he was never going to let him go.

By adding extra words, I’m garnering sympathy for my wounded warrior pilot, who’s lost a limb.

Inject Humor

When Danielle had talked him into adopting a dog from the no-kill shelter, Zach had envisioned himself with a lab or a golden retriever. The last thing he’d expected to do was walk out of the place with a basset hound.

Zach’s a wounded warrior—with scaring from burned flesh covering his body.


Tamara Ferguson is an award winning romance novelist. She is the winner of the 2015 Romance Reviews Readers’ Choice Award in New Adult Romance, as well as a 2014 Readers’ Favorite winner in Romance Suspense. A former horticulturist, she resides in central Illinois.

Khaled Talib on Twitter
Khaled Talib
Khaled Talib is a former journalist with local and international exposure. His articles have been published and syndicated to newspapers worldwide, and his short stories have appeared in literary journals and magazines.

His novel Smokescreen was listed "Thriller of the Month" on's September 2014 issue. The novel is being represented by The Evan Marshall Agency for foreign translation rights.

Talib is also the author of The Little Book of Muses, a book of aphorisms for writers. It has now has been translated into Spanish and Italian.

The author, who resides in Singapore, is a member of the UK Crime Writers Association.

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