Wednesday 7 May 2014

Guest Post: Zanna MacKenzie

Creating The Memorable

By Zanna Mackenzie
What makes a book particularly memorable for you? The plot? The setting? The characters? For many of us it’s the characters which make a novel linger long in the memory or prompt us to rush to purchase another novel by the same author in a series because we’re so keen to find out what those same great characters are up to next.

But how does a writer create memorable characters? Now that’s a tough question!

A person who had read my latest novel If You Only Knew said they liked the main characters in the book but would have loved to have been able to learn much more about them in terms of the details of their lives. They said they like lots of information and description about a character, where they live, their clothes, their habits etc. when they are reading. Fair enough. We each have our personal preferences when it comes to reading styles we like. For me, when I read, it’s more about getting a ‘sense’ of the character than wanting to know every detail of their lives – but we can all be looking for something different in the same book, which is what makes creating memorable characters a tricky business.

I seem to recall a famous UK author once saying in an interview that she never describes characters in her novels. The reason? She wants the reader to create their own mental picture of them instead. I thought this was a wonderful and fascinating concept. Sometimes I’ve read a book and developed a firm picture in my mind of certain characters which didn’t quite fit with the described look of the character. Why? I think there can be little things about a character which might trigger a personal memory of people we know in real life or actors we have seen on TV or in a movie we particularly enjoyed, and these things come together like pieces of a jigsaw to create our very own image of that particular character in a book.

When I’m creating characters for my novels I get an idea of the type of person they are and what their particular issues are and then I use astrological personality profiles to start to build all aspects of the character. I put together a detailed biography for each main character and include family and relationship history, school and education, career, car, house, looks, clothes, in depth personality stuff, strengths and weakness and much more.

Do I include all of this level of detail in the book? Usually no, I don’t. Why? I personally prefer to include just enough detail to help create that mental picture and an understanding of who a character is rather than add in lots of detail or backstory about them.

So, what is the answer to that earlier question about creating memorable characters? In truth, I think what makes a character memorable is different for everyone. It may be something in their personality we can relate to; it may be a character’s particular strength or vulnerability; it could be their issue or quest in the book we identify with. There are lots of things which can make a character stand out to us when we’re reading and they’re all equally valid!

What makes a character memorable for you when you’re reading a book?

Zanna Mackenzie lives in the UK on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border with her husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!

If You Only Knew is Zanna’s third novel; her previous books The Love Programme, and How Do You Spell Love? were both published in 2013.

Find out more about Zanna at:



Goodreads -

Amazon Author Page -

If Only You Knew is available on Amazon UK here and Amazon US here


  1. Many thanks for letting me visit your blog Jennifer - fab to be here!


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