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Learn about your characters by writing their obituaries

I don’t mean to sound morbid, but if you’re building characters for a short story or novel, I suggest you write their obituaries.

I’ve written a fair number of them over the years as a newspaper reporter, for members of my family, and to help friends who struggled with the words to honor a loved one who had passed away.

A good obituary is a tribute and a glimpse of a person’s life. As a journalist, I felt it was an honor to write obituaries even if I didn’t personally know the people I wrote about.

Obituaries show what was important to the person who died: what they did for a career, their interests, and who they loved. Obituaries tell where people were born and lived, which can give insight into the forces that shaped them.

If you’re trying to find more meaning about your cast of characters, think about writing their obituaries. The details just may reveal new meaning and insight into what makes your characters tick.

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