Creating S-M-U-R-F-A-B-L-E Characters

02 Apr

I am a member of Romance Writers of America.  Every month they send out the Romance Writers Report.  It’s a magazine filled with information about the industry. There is a section on first sales, contests, online classes, conferences, you get the idea. There are also articles.

I am going to be honest with you. There are times I set The RWR aside with the best intentions of getting back to it. You know how that goes.

I needed to organize my office. I spent several days last week doing just that. I came across several RWR magazines. If I hadn’t read them, I knew they should be tossed.  Except…there were some interesting articles I wanted to read first. I found gold in the April 2012 edition.

I am shamelessly stealing this from Virna Depaul’s article, Characters That Call to Us.

You know I have this “Chart issue.” What I’m doing is taking Ms. Depaul’s information and placing it in a chart.

Ms. Depaul talks about creating S-M-U-R-F-A-B-L-E characters.

S-M-U-R-F-A-B-L-E Hero Heroine
Sympathetic: This is the likable factor. Ex.She quit college, got a job, and takes care of her sick mother.


Motivated: This is what gives them to reason to act. Ex.They were scammed and are about to lose the family home

(Are you getting the idea?)

Unique: What makes them interesting/what sets them apart
Redeemable: This is them being restored. It’s their arc.
Flawed: They aren’t perfect. This is part of their arc as well.At least, that’s how I took it. If you have a different spin, let me know. 
Active: We want our h/h to be active, not someone who just drifts along.
Believable: Credible.
Layered: All is not as it appears. There is a lot going on beneath the surface.
Experienced: The experiences of their past have created this person. It’s their dreams, fears, shadows.

Take a look at your WIP.

Have you created S-M-U-R-F-A-B-L-E characters?


Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Idaho


14 responses to “Creating S-M-U-R-F-A-B-L-E Characters

  1. Judith Keim

    April 2, 2013 at 7:21 AM

    Lynn, what a great reminder. I love that I can post it where it will serve as a daily reminder. Thanks! Love it!

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 2, 2013 at 8:58 PM

      Judy, we really do need these reminders. We think we’ve covered all the bases, and then, BAM! You realize you’ve left something out, something important, like a flaw. It happened to me two weeks ago with my current WIP. You can’t imagine how frustrated I was, with me.

  2. Barbara Barrett

    April 2, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    Thanks for highlighting this article. I’m currently adding more depth to my h/h, so this approach will come in handy.

    Barbara Barrett

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 2, 2013 at 8:59 PM

      Barbara, I’m glad my blog was just what you needed today, a helpful reminder.

  3. marsharwest

    April 2, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    LIke you, Lynn, I sometimes miss reading the Journal. In one way, it’s a good thing. I’m writing more now. 🙂 When I began this journey 5 or so years ago, I was desperate for info, so I always inhaled the magazine as soon as it arrived. Sometimes even putting post its in places.

    Now, I’m behind several months worth of reading. And, also like you, they are taking up precious space. I’d missed this article and am happy you’ve highlighted it. And “S-M-U-R-F-A-B-L-E” is such a cool word.

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 2, 2013 at 9:02 PM

      There was an entire story about Smurfett’s (question on the spelling) character arch. She apparently didn’t start off as a nice person. She had layers. It was April of last year. The article is worth a look, and a read.

  4. Janis McCurry

    April 2, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    I’m holding you to using this, Lynn, just so you know. 🙂

  5. Peggy Staggs

    April 2, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    A well rounded character is so important. No one–with some exceptions–is totally un-S-M-U-R-F-A-B-L-E. Great thing to remember.

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 2, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      That is exactly what I thought when I read the article.

  6. Corina Mallory

    April 2, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    Very helpful. I have a huge old pile of these reports I’ve been meaning to go through. They really do have some great information!

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 2, 2013 at 9:08 PM

      I know. I really do intend to read them, but I get busy and forget. To be honest, I used to read them at school during silent reading time, but sometimes the covers reveal…too much. I no longer feel comfortable taking the RWR to school.

  7. Stephanie Berget (@StephanieBerget)

    April 3, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    Sorry I’m so late. I love this analogy. I’m making a copy to pin on the wall. Thanks, Lynn.

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 3, 2013 at 8:53 PM

      You’re welcome, Stephanie. Please use it. I think the information is important.


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