I’ve talked a lot about developing believable, interesting characters.  In my humble opinion this  is perhaps the most important factor in creating a successful novel. Without, logically motivated, three-dimensional characters, the most stunning descriptions, the most  exciting plots and the most sparkling dialogue, fail to engage the reader.

So how does one create those characters?

In earlier posts, I’ve talked about finding a role model that fits the writer’s image of the character and discovering what that character might have in their wallet, their fridge or their underwear drawer. These are good techniques and ones I use each time I start a new novel.

Another strategy is to go to books that give descriptions of certain people based on temperament types, mythological archetypes or their sun signs. That’s right. Sun signs.

Now, some of you may be thinking “Oh, there goes  Sharon off the rails with her woo-woo stuff.”

But hold on a second!

I’m not talking about earth-shattering predictions. I’m merely stating that there are certain general characteristics shared by people born under a particular sun-sign.

With this knowledge, a writer can quickly fill out a spread sheet of physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual traits of each of the novel’s characters.

The book I’ve always used for this is Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. Although it was originally published in 1968, it is still–for me–the definitive book for the basic sun sign characteristics.




The book is divided into chapters filled with details about each of the twelve astrological sun signs.

For example, if you were looking in the chapter on Aries (March 21-April 20) you could discover how to recognize and Aries, then read more details about the typical Aries man, woman, child, boss and employee.  Each chapter also gives a list of famous people born under that particular sun sign.

When I was writing my novel, Thicker Than Water I gave each of my characters a specific birthdate so that I knew their astrological sun sign. Through trial and error, I determined that my protagonist Kate was a Sagittarius, her boyfriend Phillip was an Aquarian, her best friend Claire was a Leo etc.

By using Linda Goodman’s book as a reference tool, I could quickly determine if the descriptions of these characters and the way I had them behave in various situation was consistent. I could also determine how they would relate to the other characters in the novel.

For more detailed explanations of relationships, you might try Linda Goodman’s Love Signs. It describes the connections and tensions between any pairing of sun signs and their interactions. More that just a guide for lovers and spouses, it examines child-parent, employee-employer, friend-friend, teacher-student relationships as well as the business and social  interactions everyone experiences every day.

The next time you are developing a new character, give this technique a try. You might be happily surprised by the result.


About Sharon K Owen

I am a fiction writer, a university professor, a copy editor and an online writing teacher. My first Romantic Suspense: Thicker Than Water (Brands Crossing Series) was published in 2011 and the second book in the series, Whatever Goes Around, will be published in 2016. My short stories and poetry have been published in Descant, Concho River Review, Iron Horse, American Literary Review, Trinity Writer's Workshop newsletter and collections of Christmas stories. I am blessed with a loving, supportive family, a multitude of friends and the good fortune to share a cozy sanctuary in North Texas with my two cats (Matt and Cinders).

Posted on October 11, 2011, in Writing, Writing Exercises, Writing Lessons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Sharon, this is a really good idea. One of my crit partners uses the enneagram personality test to determine more about the personalities of her characters. I should probably look more into this sort of personality analysis for my characters. I bet it’s very helpful as a writer. Thanks!

  2. What an interesting way to add dimension to your characters. This was kind of neat, thanks 🙂

  3. Brilliant! I have a couple of books on astrological signs – now they have a whole new use for me 🙂

  4. Sharon – I purchased that book decades ago…talk about a blast from the past…WOW!


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