How to create a character (A Kate guide)

Ok. I’m going to try to give you some sort of insight into how my mind works…I need a new character in Heights & Horizons. I don’t have anyone in Taderah to follow for my mapping, and I’ve pretty much got a blank canvas; I don’t have any characters already that I want to follow specifically.

My first point was an image that I have kept in my mind from the very early history of Greensky; a patch of ferns in a woodland, surrounded by firs*, with sunlight trickling down onto their bright green tendrils. We walked through a forest with my aunt, and I knew that somehow, I wanted that one scene to be in my world.

The forest was silent; a sleepy, quiet silence that lulled and swam. The golden tendrils of sunlight were floating down through the branches, and there was only the faintest of breezes. ___ walked through the silver-white trees, bemused and wondering.

The branches were like lace above her head, their faint tracery overlapping and fanning in a beautiful pattern that radiated out from the trunks. The white of the bark made them look ghostly, but they shone in the sunlight. When she held out a hand to them, the faintest radiance made her skin glow, giving her an aura of golden light. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

Who is she? Why is she walking through Taderah?

And then I went off on a tangent. If we follow a mapper, that’ll take ages. I can do it in another book, but in this one, I’m trying to keep things a bit more fast-paced. She wouldn’t be mapping. So who is she?

At times like that, I let my mind wander. I started thinking about people I knew who could serve as character templates…who’s interesting? Who has a role that I could use? Who could serve as a darker side for events? How about a boss, or supervisor? (Thankfully nothing to do with my current ones, who are lovely, but I admit a former one may have been inspiration). My X character has a supervisor who’s going to belittle and criticise, she can never be good enough…

So what happens if she finds out that her work is actually brilliant?

And then I realised I could pull a character in from a previous story; someone who’s insecure, horrible, arrogant and selfish. Someone who’s already been through the grindstone of Iilde’s temper. What would happen if he was handed his first research project, and got two assistants? He’d treat them like dirt and take all the credit…which would work up until X found out.

There’s a few more tangles (hey, I gotta keep some spoilers from you!) but that’s dropped my main characters in. I haven’t yet got a name for X or for her companion, but they’re formed in my head; I can ‘see’ them!

However, this does mean I can’t use my lace-forests piece…but I have a solution to that, too. I need a second setting for Crystals & Communications, and I want to explore Taderah’s forests without the world-view of the Mages. I can use my walker there and as I still don’t know who she is, that’ll be fun to work out when I come to write that.

I’m really looking forward to writing my next chapter about X and her colleague and her supervisor – and the nicest thing about the Greensky series is that I know they’ll come back in later, somehow.


* Edit: they’re Tsugas – commonly called “Hemlocks” as the crushed needles are supposed to smell like hemlock.

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.