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Insights From World of Shem Part 6

In this issue I will speak on building a character.

When I started writing my first novel I thought I knew how to build characters. But I found there was much to learn. And now after writing a total of 6 novels I am still learning.

In writing the World of Shem I had a unique problem. Usually in writing a novel you build your character from scratch. But in this case, as in my previous novels, I faced actual historical figures wherein certain aspects of their personalities were known. You’d think this made my job easier, but not really. With parts of their personalities already known I had to develop those personalities so that they were consistent with the historical record.

I’ve often talked about research and once again I point to the importance of your doing your research. So I had to first thoroughly acquaint myself with Shem and other historical people, then build upward from that basic knowledge.

For example, in developing Shem I had to make sure that his character was consistent with the historical and biblical known facts. I also took into consideration tradition. A good example of this is the Jewish tradition that Shem was Melchizedek. Not all Jews believed this but some did and I adopted that for the book. But that created another problem: namely that I had to make sure the character not only met the known facts about Shem but also about Melchizedek. And this meant it had to be consistent with the Bible, which I accomplished.

Now I didn’t have to prove they were one and the same person, but it had to be believable. That is why I included the fact that Melchizedek was likely a title rather than a name (much like pharaoh). Combining these facts together to make one person required research, patience, and care.

But that is what you need to do for any of your characters. You want them to stand out on their own. And the only way I know of doing this on a consistent basis is to consistently learn and apply from your very first character to your latest character. Each time you develop a character, whether based on a historical figure or an imaginary figure, you add to your skill set. Then the next character benefits from what you have learned. Hopefully each succeeding book and character is better than the last.

The more often you write the more confident you will get. And the more confident you get the better your characters will come across. This is key to your success. If you don’t believe in your characters you can hardly expect your readers to believe in them. So make this skill a priority in your writing.

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.