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#IWSG Infusing Characters with Personal Traits

Happy July to all writers! And Happy July 4th to Americans. Thank you to Alex Cavanaugh for starting the Insecure Writers’ Support Group, where we support and befriend writerly peeps.


I’m excited to be a co-host this month along with Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard,and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!


Congratulations to Ellen Jacobson (The Cynical Sailor) for her new release, Poisoned by the Pier (Molly McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery #3). I’m reading it now and it’s a lot of fun! Molly’s husband is trying a fad diet involving rutabaga–this is not going to end well.

Are you entering the 2019 IWSG Anthology Contest? The genre is middle grade historical adventure/fantasy. I was fortunate to be part of Masquerade: Oddly Suited, Dancing Lemur Press’s young adult romance anthology, and I met some wonderful IWSG authors in addition to working with a publisher featuring fast, clear communication. What a pleasure! I encourage you to submit a story for this year’s contest.

Speaking of Dancing Lemur Press, they have a BOGO book sale this week! Check it out


I love the introspective nature of this month’s question: What personal trait(s) have you written into your characters?

Wow. What personal traits haven’t I written into my characters? I find writing to be therapeutic, so I pour myself into my characters. I’m a psychologist and my books typically feature at least one therapist character. I’ve infused characters with these personal traits as well: anxious, romantic yet clueless at romance, intellectual, sporty (particularly swimming and volleyball), competitive, sensitive, analytical, passionate, persevering, overeating, loud laugher.

I’m working on a new novel, and my heroine is a smoker. Since I abhor smoking, this is a bit of a challenge for me.

I’m curious to hear your responses to this question! Write on.



62 thoughts on “#IWSG Infusing Characters with Personal Traits”

  1. I love your answer and it makes me laugh because I am the same way. I asked myself when I first read the optional question, what haven't I poured into my characters that isn't really me. I just have to be careful that I don't identify too heavily. Thank you for co-hosting this month and have a happy fourth. Shalom aleichem,Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  2. I'd have a hard time too I think writing about a smoker. It bothers me when I see it in films and funny, haven't really read many books with smokers in them, even mysteries, now that I think about it. Happy 4th, and thanks for co-hosting!

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  3. Thanks for co-hosting with me. I'm jealous that you're a psychologist. It must make it so much easier to develop your characters fully. I have smokers in my new story too but not the heroine.

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  4. Thanks for the fun review of Ellen Jacobson's Poisoned by the Pier. Looks like the prefect read for the summer. Based on your profession, your characters must be fascinating. Good luck with your smoker character. That must be a bit of a personal challenge. Thanks for co-hosting this months IWSG blog hop. And cheers to a Happy 4th of July. Lynn La Vita @ Writers Supporting Writers

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  5. Pat, good point. We don't want to overdo ourselves in our characters.Alex, I hope the contest judging goes well!Hi Lisa, I want to stretch myself a bit. It's odd that cigarette smoking is so vilified but marijuana smoking is celebrated by today's culture, in many ways, though neither is for me.Hey, cohost Natalie! I do very much enjoy my day job as psychologist.Lynn, thanks for stopping by, and happy sailing!

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  6. I love this month's question because it has me thinking about my own characters and what traits of my own I've given them. There are some obvious ones that I know about (chocolate obsession, Star Wars geek), but I suspect there are some that I've added at a subconscious level and perhaps traits that aren't necessarily ones that I like about myself. Hmm…something to ponder.

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  7. I'd find it really hard to create a character who smoked because I feel the same as you do, but maybe that will turn out to be a way to stretch in your writing. Good luck with it.Thanks so much for co-hosting today. I enjoyed reading how your characters reflect so much of you.

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  8. I think I've never written a main character who doesn't contain some element of myself. I hope the wise older characters reflect some of my wisdom too–the kind you can only access when you have time to think it over, never in the moment.

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  9. Ellen's new book is such a fun read! I'm really enjoying her series.Too funny about your character who smokes. When I was growing up, everyone smoked. Now it's a bit jarring to watch old movies where most of characters have a cigarette in one hand and a cocktail in the other. Good luck with fleshing it out. And thanks for co-hosting today.

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  10. Thanks for co-hosting today!I have a character who is a dream therapist. I haven’t written any of my personal traits into her character. But her son has some of my youngest son's traits.

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  11. Cathrina, happy 4th!Ellen, I love your chocolate-obsessed characters. Scooter's gotta learn he will never convert Mollie to rutabaga.Madeline, Ellen's series is excellent.C. Lee, yes, I'm hoping the smoker will stretch me. And of course I'm going to try to get her to quit as the story progresses!Ronel, I saw a meme recently that said, \”My life is like a romantic comedy only there's no romance and it's me laughing at my own jokes.\” :-DSadira, I never thought of that before but I like the idea of older, wiser characters perhaps representing our older, wiser selves.Lee, we're lucky to have a fun series to read!Chrys, glad I'm in good company.Thank you for stopping by!

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  12. Hello Jennifer; thanks for co-hosting. It's great to read your posts. My characters are a composite of everything I wish I could be – well, at least that's true for the protagonists. The antagonists are more challenging, dealing with their dark and evil ways and yet find a glimmer of goodness in each. Of course, the antagonists have a bit of a rebel in them – makes it more fun and real. Good luck with the smoker.

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  13. I agree with you. My characters have lots of my traits which allows me to make them more believable. I also do a lot of people watching–get a few traits I would never adopt myself.

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  14. Often times, I find myself channeling my characters rather than injecting myself into them. Makes me think they are facets of me, just ones that aren't so apparent. Thanks for co-hosting!

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  15. I'm in agreement with you about the writing of self into characters. I think a book might be pretty sterile and without credibility without some personal aspects written somewhere into the characters or stories. I too find it a challenge to write characters who have traits that I dislike–at least not without being tempted to write in my own moralization to some degree.Arlee BirdTossing It Out

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  16. Thanks for co-hosting! I kept getting sidetracked by the cuties in the sidebar and the awesome sporty titles! hehe I don't think I'd heard of historical adventure/fantasy, but I know I've read at least one now that I think about what it is (My Lady Jane).

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  17. Lidy, a dream therapist sounds like an interesting character. I haven't studied dream interpretation much, though dreams fascinate me. How does your son feel about his traits going into your character? ;-)Feather/Judy, I like the authenticity of exploring the good and bad in our characters. Also the idea of aspirational traits in our characters. Thanks for visiting the blog–good to hear from you.Mary, sometimes the choices that my characters make appalls me!Jacqui, I too enjoy people watching then using that material when writing.Loni, how interesting! Authors channeling their characters instead of vice versa. *mind blown*Arlee, good point. I've already had my character label her smoking habit as \”disgusting\”. Hmm, maybe too much moralizing on my part. I agree that without revealing ourselves in our writing, that it might be too sterile.Debra, I'm glad you enjoyed my \”cuties\” hee hee. I'm not familiar with this contest's genre, either.

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  18. I think it is the hardest to write a character who doesn't reflect your personality. I don't smoke, and when I look back at my characters, none of them smokes. I think you set yourself a challenge to write about a smoker.

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  19. I like that 'romantic but clueless at romance' thing. Made me laugh out loud.I don't smoke, and I've never written a character who smokes either. What an interesting challenge to undertake. Wishing you luck with it!Thank you for co-hosting this month!

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  20. That's so cool that you're a psychologist! I imagine it would be difficult not interweaving that into your stories somehow. Good luck with your character who smokes! Are you going to ask smoker-friends for insight or leave it to the internet?

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  21. Whenever I see the covers of your books, Jennifer, I always think that you are a whole lot braver than I am! Thanks for co-hosting today and for sharing your thoughts about writing your character traits into into your fictional characters. I guess when you're a writer it's hard not to do that.

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  22. A psychologist, eh? Do you sit each character down on the couch and interview them before writing the story? One of my main characters was a smoker and she was trying to quit smoking. I think I included that side of her not because I was ever a smoker, but because my dad was always trying to quit smoking. He tried chewing gum to replace the cigs, but he ended up smoking AND chewing gum!. JQ Rose

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  23. Anna, here's to venting through writing! I also can't stop once I start.Diane, I wish I felt as confident as some of my characters. Ellen's reads are very fun!Olga, thanks for supporting me in the challenge. :-)Juneta, we all need laughs in our lives. Thank you for stopping by.M.J., I'm still trying to figure out why I write romance when I'm perpetually single!

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  24. Caitlin, I strive not to use my clients' stories in my books as that would be disrespectful, but as a psychologist I am drawn to writing since both careers involve narratives. I do love my day job–it's never boring. My mom smoked as I grew up so I have some familiarity with the habit. Thank goodness she quit years ago. They say children of smokers are more likely to smoke but it had the opposite effect on me.Pat, I definitely enjoy throwing my characters into therapy.L Diane, I hope the sale is going well.Fundy, I don't know if it's bravery or difficulty finding the best cover. I didn't expect Blocked to become a series but once I wrote a sequel, I thought I needed to keep a similar cover theme of Abs, abs, abs! Those shirtless men do seem to sell better than my classier covers. Thank you for the compliment on my short story!And thank you for stopping by, S.E.! I have really enjoyed reading others' answers.Gwen, I have a lot going on in my scary brain and personality.J.Q., I tend to plop my characters on the therapist's couch as part of the story! I learn a lot from them that way. We are similar in having a smoking parent. Is your dad still smoking? My mom quit years ago. I am planning on some personal growth for my character that will likely involve her quitting (if that is what she decides to do). How did it go for your character?

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  25. I was a smoker for years and quit hard through working out and running. Now my antagonists are almost always smoking and my protagonist is fighting not to. Ha! Great post. Thank you for co-hosting.

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  26. Shannon, that's great you were able to quit smoking as you got older. I think I'll try to convince my character to quit as well.Adrienne, sounds like exercise saved the day! Funny that the smoking battle lives on in your writing.

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  27. Hey there, Madame Co-Host. I bet you've been busy in the blogosphere. Thank you for reminding me about that cozy mystery sailing series. Going to add it to my Goodreads list right now…Your characters are so mutli-dimensional and real feeling – not surprised there's so much real you in them. So far you're doing great w/ the smoker—I can practically feel the nicotine staining my teeth as I read her, hehe.

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  28. Bev, I don't know how Alex Cavanaugh does it! He said he visits EVERY BLOG. Meanwhile, I'm stealing away some time at work so that I can visit about one tenth of them on the list.You'll really enjoy Mollie McGhie.LOL about nicotine-stained teeth! *shudders* Quite the turn on!

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  29. Hi Jennifer,Interesting that you're a psychologist. That must lend to some pretty interesting characters.Like you, I infuse a lot of myself in my characters. The good and not so good traits. But PASSION always tends to bring out both….I'm sure you agree. LOLGood luck on you WIP… I abhor smoking too. My mother was a chain smoker for over forty years. Yuk!

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  30. I have definitely borrowed some of my backstory for my characters – places I've worked, hobbies and interests, that sort of thing. It's easier to write about the things you know, right?

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  31. Your books sound fascinating Jennifer. I'm going to try and get hold of one – hopefully they're available on Kindle. I can imagine that it's a challenge to write about your smoker character. How do you stop judging him/her, right? Do you write third person omniscient? What inspired you to write such a character?

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  32. Michael, my mom was also a smoker but she and I are both fortunate that she quit years ago. I love my career as a psychologist!Julie, I hope you had a great 4th. I saw Chaka Khan and Michael McDonald in concert before some awesome fireworks, and thankfully no rain.C.D., good point–I also use settings that I know. Much easier that way. Plus, I'm a lazy researcher.Thanks for stopping by, Kalpana! Yes, I have some judgment for my smoker character but also a lot of compassion. I want to write a character whose life feels like a mess–she needs some love in her life to straighten herself out personally and professionally. She's in a high-pressure career and is buckling under the pressure.

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