Tag Archives: character development

Volunteer Opportunities for Your Characters – Writers’ Resources

When building a character for your novel, it’s great to give them a few quirks and a job, but a volunteer position can add a lot to their depth.  It not only makes your character more of a real person, but it might also give her a reason to be in the right place at the right time and solve the crime/win the love of her crush/tick off someone who deserves it.

Since I love just these sorts of lists when I’m writing, I’m sharing them with you!  You can find this list and more on my Writers’ Resources page.

If you have any suggestions for this list, leave me a comment!  I’ll add your idea as well as your preferred link.

animal shelter

Big Brothers Big Sisters

blood drive

booster club (athletics, band, etc)

Boy Scouts

Boys and Girls Club


city cleanup


food pantry

Girl Scouts

Habitat for Humanity

historical society

homeless shelter



literacy program

national parks

park district

political campaign

Red Cross

retirement home


soup kitchen

warming shelter


youth center


* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Leave a comment

Filed under On Writing

Character Quirks

Quirks are handy when creating characters and may even help advance the plot.  Note these aren’t necessarily bad or good things about a person, but they’re fun traits that not everyone will share. Although it’s by no means exhaustive, here’s a list of quirks you may find helpful while creating your characters.  (Looking for more on writing?  Visit my Writers’ Resources page.)

  • presses her lips together when she’s angry
  • sticks the tip of his tongue out of the corner of his mouth while he’s working on something
  • picks up rocks and throws them as she’s walking
  • can’t stand to eat a certain food, i.e. always picks tomatoes out of his salad
  • doesn’t like pets or animals of any kind
  • constantly corrects people, either on their grammar or their pronunciations
  • trails her fingers on plants, books, whatever is at hand as she walks
  • has trouble sleeping at night
  • constantly lies, even though she’s terrible at it
  • always has his nose in a book
  • constantly washes her hands
  • afraid to travel
  • hates confrontation so much she won’t stand up for herself, even when she’s right
  • really into science fiction, and it is a part of his life
  • won’t go anywhere without her dog
  • likes to blame everyone else for his problems
  • is neat and presentable, but her house is an absolute wreck
  • insists that his clothes be folded a certain way, but he won’t do his own laundry
  • refuses to take her husband’s last name
  • won’t drink out of a can or bottle, and has to pour it into a glass first
  • chews ice
  • always falls asleep with the TV on
  • talks in her sleep
  • thinks he’s an expert on everything
  • bad with money
  • talks to her dogs like they’re people
  • terrified of animals (or a certain kind of animal)
  • drinks a lot but functions
  • always reads subtitles even when he can understand the dialog
  • must be busy while on the phone
  • gestures with hands while talking, even if on the phone
  • always carries his own pen and refuses to use anyone else’s
  • constantly listening to music
  • drums her fingers on the counter when waiting
  • absolutely refuses to leave the house without full makeup and hair
  • despites coffee
  • obsessed with coffee
  • obsessed with eating healthy and drives everyone else nuts with it
  • obsessed with environmentally healthy products
  • always trying to sell you something (party products like Avon and Pampered chef, handmade crafts, or even a used car)
  • has kept all the porcelain dolls her mother collected
  • literally lives in a fantasy world (cosplay, D&D, etc.)
  • convinced she’s adopted
  • feels Christmas must be exactly perfect or else it’s a disaster
  • is an extreme couponer and hoards pantry and cleaning items simply becuase she got them cheap
  • always cold (needs blankets, socks, mitten, sweaters)
  • quit smoking and now constantly chews gum or has a toothpick in his mouth
  • always apologizes (could relate to past trauma)
  • constantly knitting things for people, even if they don’t want them
  • loves speaking with an English accent and/or using British terms, even though she’s American
  • loves British television (and thus the accent?)
  • believes in crystal healing and is constantly giving her friends stones that she believes will help them
  • hypochondriac
  • signs up for volunteer positions but never follows through with them
  • loves spending time in nature and is always outside
  • loves fountain pens and ink (this person is likely to have ink on their fingers)
  • still gets up to watch cartoons on Saturday morning
  • insists on having a perfectly clean house all the time
  • abstains from drinking any alcohol, ever (perhaps a victim of alcoholism in some way)
  • always has a book with her
  • waves at anyone who happens to drive by

This is just a handful of suggestions, but it was also a great writing exercise.  What quirks have you used or seen in fiction that you think are great?  Or terrible?  Let me know in the comments!  Please be sure to check out my Writers’ Resources page for more ideas, lists, and information on writing.

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.


Filed under On Writing

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone – Guest Post by J.S. Frankel

by J.S. Frankel

It’s easy to write what you know. As a guy, white and cisgender straight, that’s what I started writing roughly six years ago because it was what I knew best. I wrote about white dudes and dudettes, introduced outlandish (at times) situations, had fight scenes and romances and it was all very good.

After all, I had to go with what I knew and pen a story about it. That’s what the experts say, and who are we to question them?

But is it the best way to improve? It depends. It’s my contention that a writer can improve within the genre they’ve chosen, working on narrative, dialogue, action, and so on, without having to switch to another genre.

At the same time, though, some writers can become complacent, coasting along on the formula that got them noticed in the first place. So, it depends.

In my case, not only did I want to improve my narrative technique, I also wanted to grow as a writer. For me, that meant stepping out of my comfort zone. It meant writing about the unfamiliar.

In the past, I’ve written lesfic as well as explored transgender issues. I did this because those two areas are unfamiliar to me, because there are people who are in the LGBT category, and because they have their own stories to tell, that is, the characters that I wanted to write.

If you are going to step outside your comfort zone, how you approach it is up to you, but this is what I’ve learned.

1. If you don’t know–ask. With the transgender crowd, I asked a few people to tell me their experiences. They were more than willing, and I incorporated their ideas.

2. Do your research. I cannot stress this enough. If you’re going to write about something unfamiliar to you, research it first and then research some more. Then ask if you are truly stumped. A wise person admits their ignorance; a fool does not, and thereby exposes everything.

3. Expect to be called on it. In fact, even if you’re writing about something you know, chances are at least one person will call you on it. When writing about a different orientation, the chances of messing up are doubly so, so expect criticism.

That’s what happened to me. Some of it was justified; much of it was not. It had nothing to do with the style or the narrative. Some people simply couldn’t accept a straight guy writing about lesbians. That’s how it goes.

4. Make the characters real. An excellent novel I read, Crimson Fire, had a black lesbian as the main character. The way the writer, Mirren Hogan, approached it, was nothing short of incredible, and yet it was so naturally and simply done, I had to keep reading.

Her main character said that she preferred women and that was that. No muss, no fuss, no much ado about anything; it was stated clearly and it is to Ms. Hogan’s credit that she not only created a very fine novel, it also showed her main character in a very positive light. The orientation of the character turned out to be unimportant. It was the character, what she did and how she conquered, that was the most compelling part of the story.

To me, that’s how you should portray someone who is different from the default, not dramatizing, but simply showing.

Even if you do everything right, see point #3. Sooner or later, someone will take offense at what you write. It doesn’t matter how good it is or how sympathetic the characters are or how well it’s written…at least one person will always find fault with what you do.

That’s the risk every writer must take. It is then up to the writer to either accept that criticism–if justified–or discard it. In any case, keep writing. That’s been my mantra from day one. To quote Captain Picard: “Make it so.”

J.S. Frankel was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up there, receiving his tertiary education from the University of Toronto and graduating with a double major in English Literature and Political Science.

After working at Gray Coach Lines for a grand total of three years, he came to Japan at the age of twenty-six and has been there ever since, teaching English to any and all students who enter his hallowed school of learning.

In 1997, he married Akiko Koike. He, his wife and his two children, Kai and Ray, currently reside in Osaka. His hobbies include weight training, watching movies when his writing schedule allows, and listening to various kinds of music.

His novels, all for the YA set, include Twisted, Lindsay Versus the Marauders and it’s sequels, Lindsay, Jo, and the Tree of Forever, and Lindsay, Jo and the Well of Nevermore, all courtesy of Regal Crest Enterprises. He has also written the Catnip series (five novels), Mr. Taxi, The Titans of Ardana and its sequel, The Titans of Ardana 2: Battlefield, along with Picture (Im)perfect and more novels, courtesy of DevineDestinies.com.

Future projects for Devine Destinies include the final novel in the Titans trilogy, the final novel in the Just Another Quiet… trilogy, The Undernet, the re-release of Star Maps, and more. He is also the author of The Menagerie and The Nightmare Crew trilogy, all courtesy of Finch Books.

You can find J.S. Frankel on Amazon and Twitter.

1 Comment

Filed under Guest Posts, On Writing