Characters make or break a book for me.
If I don’t like the characters, trust me I won’t like the book. But if I love the characters, I can ignore plot loopholes, writing errors…and well lots of things. (I’m looking at you Harry Potter. Minus the one book where I wanted Harry to die.)
So how do you add depth to your characters? It’s the age old question, right?
One of my favorite tips: astrology. Before you run for the hills, stick with me. This is a fun way to add some complex traits into your character profile.
Adding Depth to Your Characters with Astrology
When I was in high school, I stumbled upon C.J. Winter’s idea of developing characters with astrology. I have an overwhelming love for mapping out my characters, so I decided to test it out. Years (sorry, you’re not finding out how many years!) later, I still use this concept for nearly every single book. (I’ve also run astrological charts for literary lovers, but I’ll digress.) What makes her way especially interesting is you pick a sun sign (the core of the character), then it goes further and further so that you’re thinking about everything from the first glimpses we see of a character to how they express love.
All very good things to know.
If you want a more basic idea without trying C.J.’s deep look, just look at each sun sign. Which fits your character best? What other traits from this pairing can you include to add more depth? If your character is demonstrating solely the positive traits of a sign, why not throw in a negative trait to add something unexpected?
Aries – March 21 – April 20 – Fire sign – Courageous, Impulsive, Hotheaded, Innovative, Dynamic, Insensitive, Selfish, Ruthless, Active, Uncensored, Pioneering.
Have a character who is a brazen and bold leader? Do they get swept away into a challenge, so determined to succeed that they might step on some toes along the way? They might be Aries!
Taurus – April 21 – May 21 – Earth sign – Patient, Loyal, Luxury lover, Stubborn, Determined, Bullheaded, Possessive, Brooding
Taurus characters are builders – they always have a plan and it’s usually about providing luxury and security for themselves. Endanger their security and you’ve got quite the angry plot twist on your hands!
Gemini – May 22 – June 21 – Air sign – Talkative, Fickle, Curious, Witty, Charming, Flaky, Restless, Childlike, Forgetful.
Think James Bond with a tendency to not follow through. It’s not because he doesn’t want to – it’s because the next shiny idea, person, or place has caught his eye! The best thing about Gemini? They can change with the tides!
Cancer – June 22 – July 22 – Water sign – Caring, Patient, Clingy, Moody, Sensitive, Nurturing, Imaginative, Gentle.
Characters born under Cancer are caregivers. They can’t help their maternal ways…. or their mood swings. They need someone to take care of…often so they can ignore their own problems. Make sure to give this character time to decompress – too much time around other people tends to leave them off sorts!
Leo – July 23 -August 21 – Fire sign – Demanding, Proud, Dramatic, Confident, Affectionate, Bossy, Provocative, Radiant, Life of the Party.
Does your character love the limelight? Do they attract attention wherever they go – whether they want to or not? Or perhaps, are they touch of a drama queen? Is there always a crisis that needs to be attended to? Love your Leo character – or else.
Virgo – August 22 – September 23 – Earth sign – Organized, Clever, Methodical, Loyal, Fussy, Antisocial, Critical, Healer.
Need a character who must have things just so? Who can take a glance at anything and find both the high points and the faults? This character wants to perfect the world and takes ambitious leaps to do so. Maybe they’re a doctor, a fashion consultant…or a cult leader.
Libra – September 24 – October 23 – Air sign – Charming, Just, Sophisticated, Classy, People Pleasing, Diplomatic, Mediator, Graceful, Co-dependent, Creative, Idealistic, Stylish.
Ah, this is the smooth character always throwing elegant parties with a cocktail in hand, calming the crowds with just the right thing to say. Libras are fans of justice, elegance, and all things beautiful – this includes people as well.
Scorpio – October 24 – November 22 – Water sign – Intense, Mysterious, Manipulative, Sensual, Suspicious, Intuitive, Determined, Possessive, Ambitious, Vengeful, Secretive.
Need a sultry and seductive detective? The character with a touch of the taboo, an air for knowing what they what shouldn’t, and the grace to always pull it off? You’ve got the stinger of the Scorpio in your hands. (Keep broken hearted Scorpios away from bunnies and boiling water.)
Sagittarius – November 23 – December 22 – Fire sign – Philosophical, Educated, Curious, Careless, Flaky, Tactless, Worldly, Cheerful, Friendly, Athletic.
So your character makes friends well but keeps things on the top layer? You might have a Sagittarius. They’re honest, and adventurous – like Virgo, they’ll tell you the faults they see…but they might not be tactful while doing so. This independent soul has an opinion about everything, and naturally you’re going to hear about it.
Capricorn – December 23 – January 20 – Earth sign – Ambitious, Resourceful, Determined, Cold, Standoffish, Snobby, Materialistic, Pessimistic, Dependable.
Have a character with endless drive that is overly pragmatic and practical? Slap a Capricorn label on them and give them a business to run. Romantic? Not so much. Loyal, and willing to woo with a Black card? That’s your guy.
Aquarius – January 21 – February 19 – Air sign – Flighty, Progressive, Original, Independent, Creator, Rebel, Eccentric, Loner.
Maybe your character doesn’t fit into any boxes. They march to the beat of their own drum, and they don’t care who notices. This rebel often has a cause and as fighting to bring something wonderful (in their minds at least) into the world. Can we say modern-day mad scientist?
Pisces – February 20- March 20 – Water sign – Creative, Dreamy, Poetic, Romantic, Compassionate, Empathic, Self-indulgent, Addictive, Man (or woman) on the Run.
I’d bet that every male in a Nicholas Sparks is a Pisces – the romantic poet with idealistic views of life and all the right swoony lines to say. So what if their idea of reality is a little different from what everyone sees? Who needs to face the big bad world anyway? Not this character – their rose colored glasses are here to stay.
Naturally, this is a bit of a caricature so don’t get too offended if your own sign isn’t described the way you’d like. All’s fair in love and writing. (Besides – look what I said about my own beloved Scorpio!)
For more fun – When writing block hits, visit the Astro Twins or Cafe Astrology for your character’s daily or weekly horoscope. The challenges or advantages just might inspire you to add something new in! Or just peek at yours. I won’t tell.
Would you use astrology to aid your novels?