THE GROWING WRITER | Layer Upon Layer: Developing Good Characters by Tracey Michae'l Lewis

THE GROWING WRITER | Layer Upon Layer: Developing Good Characters by Tracey Michae'l Lewis

In my new book, The Unlikely Remnant, I introduce readers to a character named Chad Donohue. Chad is a 40-something, White, Southern-born, Midwest-bred, Harvard-educated, ultra-conservative and racist talk show host.


Chad is the most challenging character I’ve ever written.

This is likely because I love to play inside a character’s head. I want to know them deeply and intimately. Except Chad. I didn’t want to know him. But I knew my readers would.

It’s important to me that characters in a story are not only identifiable but layered. In other words, protagonists who are all good and antagonists who are all bad make for one very bored reader. That’s no matter how good the premise or plot may be. Inherent to the conflict necessary in any story is the tension created between right and wrong; the ambiguity between the right choice and the wrong choice for a character. So Chad tested me. First, because I couldn’t stand him. And second, because I couldn’t take the easy way out and create some Sean Hannity look-alike. He needed more than one dimension and I needed my reader to care about him in order to keep turning the page. Sort of.

Fortunately, there are three other just-as-complex characters in The Unlikely Remnant so I did have the opportunity to reveal the layers in Chad’s personality through other lenses. This is one of the critical components of character development. Even extreme heroes and super bad guys have layers. The good girl with a mean streak. The bad boy with a big heart. These are possibly over-simplified examples but the point is, these unexpected aspects to their personalities make them interesting and real. By creating layers, I can keep a reader unsuspecting of my character’s next move. For this book, a reader can peel back Chad’s layers like an onion until, through the narrative, he or she reaches the man’s core.

So for me, the key to good character development is creating multi-dimensional, multi-faceted characters. My readers are drawn to a character like Chad because his layers give them insight into who he really is and why he makes the choices he does in the story. I give the reader a peek into his history. They get an honest and somewhat emotionally driven view of his contradictions. By doing so, I can turn him from the character that every reader “loves to hate” into the one they “hate to love.”

About the Author

Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts is a writer, editor, and educator. The author of six books including The Integrated Church: Authentic Multicultural Ministry and Interruption: The Gospel According to Crystal Justine, Lewis-Giggetts explores in her work both the personal and collective impact of the intersection of identity and faith.


About the Book

Faye is a mother in the AME church. She has spent 40 years of her life working for the Lord. Chad is a white, conservative Christian radio talk show host. He enjoys riling up the masses about issues related to race, gender, class, and politics. Jeremiah is a popular, Christian tele-evangelist. The charismatic, African American pastor of a popular mega-church, he is celebrated for his knowledge of scripture. Rosa is a Hispanic, single mom. An English teacher in the Catholic school she grew up in, she is a survivor of domestic abuse. So what happens when these four very different people find themselves trapped in a historical church in North Philadelphia AFTER THE RAPTURE? More than left behind, the characters in THE UNLIKELY REMNANT are left to deal with the personal truths and tragic secrets that led to them missing God; all while wrestling with the prejudices that inevitably surface in their relationships with each other. Who will press in an d who will give up their soul forever?

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Tracey Michae'l Lewis-Giggetts at 10:06 am

    Thanks, Tyora! I really do appreciate you and all the great work you do!


    • WVB Editor at 7:44 am

      My pleasure, Tracey! Many blessings on the success of your book and thank you for letting Written Voices be a host on your virtual book tour.