This New Characterization Technique Could Transform Your Writing

by Kellie McGann | 65 comments

Characterization is one of the most important aspects of writing good fiction. Characterization is what gives authors the power to sway their readers. It's how you get your reader to fall in love with—or despise—the characters in your book.

This New Technique Will Transform Your Characterization

Speaking of characterization, The Write Practice offers a tutorial with our seven best lessons on creating great characterization. It's free and easy to sign up for. Check it out here.

In this post, I want to give you a new technique to use to develop characters that I believe could transform your writing.

Why Your Character Needs an Eyepatch

What do we think when we see someone wearing an eyepatch? We immediately wonder.

“What happened? Is it real? Were they born that way? Was there an accident?”

In other words, “What's the STORY?!”

What if we could get our readers to be that interested in our characters?

What if our readers were the ones asking questions and flipping to the next page faster to see if they could find their answer?

Let's look at a strategy that will pique your readers' curiosity. I call it the Eyepatch Technique.

Three Reasons You Should Use the Eyepatch Technique to Develop Your Characters

Here are three reasons to use the Eyepatch Technique in your stories:

1. The Eyepatch Technique Creates Mystery

Mystery is vital to any story. We might start a book that has an interesting premise or storyline, but when the story falls flat lacking mystery, we're likely to put it down.

An eyepatch is not just something that makes you look twice; it is something that makes you question the backstory.

We work hard to make those backstories interesting, but the stories won't matter if our readers aren't curious in the first place.

When I was a kid, I had an uncle with a glass eye. Every time I asked him how it happened he would tell me a different story. I still don't know the real story, but it keeps me asking.

2. The Eyepatch Technique Creates Connection

“Eyepatches” foreground a personality trait or physical trait to which the reader can relate. When you incorporate these into your writing your reader will connect with the character.

A great example of the Eyepatch Technique is Holden Caulfield in The Catcher In the Rye. Holden's eyepatch is his absolute discontent for everything, and it's most visible in the amount of times he uses the word “phony.”

3. The Eyepatch Technique Creates Consistency

Another reason to give your character a figurative eyepatch is because it creates a relationship between the past and the present.

The red “A” in The Scarlet Letter, for example, is a small but constant reminder of Hester's past.

Use your character's current situation to emphasize their past. When your character's story is consistent, they become more reliable.

5 Examples of the Eyepatch Characterization Technique

Here are some examples of what an eyepatch could look like in your story.

Irrational Fears: A character might be afraid of dogs, gray cars, red lipstick, or the color green. Behind each of those fears is a story about why he or she is afraid of that thing.

As a writer, you can show the fear, but leave us guessing why the character is so afraid.

Mysterious Tattoos: Most tattoos, even bad tattoos, have a story behind them. Perhaps your character has a name, a set of coordinates, a specific date tattooed on his or her body.

Each of those tattoos can be a sign of mystery, something lurking in his or her past that the reader is begging to have uncovered.

A great example of this is the film Memento, in which the character's tattoos (SPOILER ALERT!) literally lead him to committing murder.

Flashbacks: Perhaps your character has a habit of spacing out in the middle of important conversations, a blank look sliding over his or her face, while images of the past come flooding back.

Flashbacks can act as an effective eyepatch, leaving readers curious to know more.

Just be careful not to give too much away too soon in your flashbacks. Flashbacks can lead to info dumping, which is a great way to destroy all your drama.

A Twitch: Could some early trauma have caused your character to experience a twitch at certain trigger moments?

A good twitch reveals a characters weakness, a weakness he or she is desperately trying to keep hidden. And behind every twitch is a fascinating story.

Scars: Scars can be physical, like Harry Potter's, or figurative, like a gruff attitude or an inability to get close to other people.

“The only requirement” to be a writer, says Stephen King, “is the ability to remember every scar.”

Don't be tempted to hide the fact that your character has experienced pain, suffering, even violence. We ALL have experienced pain, and pretending it doesn't exist merely alienates us from your character.

The key is to keep that pain hidden by an eyepatch until just the right moment.

Good Characterization Is About Mystery and Connection

The Eyepatch Technique is a way to add mystery to our characters.

Just as an eyepatch covers something on a person, the Eyepatch Technique is a way of covering a wound or misshapen piece of a character's personality, giving the character an air of mystery and suspense.

Let's be honest—we all have wounds, we all misshapen pieces of our personalities, and behind each of those wounds and character flaws lies a story.

Perhaps it's time for you to tell that story.

What figurative eyepatches do you use? Let us know in the comments below!


Practice using the Eyepatch Technique to develop a character with a trait like we discussed above.

Take notes on your character's eyepatch for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments below. And if you post, please be sure to leave some ideas for your fellow writers!

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Kellie McGann is the founder of Write a Better Book. She partners with leaders to help tell their stories in book form.

On the weekends, she writes poetry and prose.

She contributes to The Write Practice every other Wednesday.


  1. Rae Elliott

    This was a really interesting article. I loved the idea! It’s amazing how much “Eyepatches” exist in really great stories without us even realizing how vital they are or how much they have our attention. This was a unique tip, thanks for sharing!

    • Kellie McGann

      Thanks Rae! Glad you liked the article. It’s interesting how many “eyepatches” you can find in the classic literature as well!

  2. Jennifer McGinnis

    This is interesting, and the links led me to stuff I didn’t know you had available at the Write Practice, so yay! But I have to admit I miss getting the articles right in my e-mail. I will end up missing more articles this way, because I will not always click on the link. I will try to break that habit, as The Write Practice is my FAVORITE email each day.

    • Kellie McGann

      Jennifer! That is so great to hear! I’m glad we’re your favorite emails. 🙂 Glad you find the info on characterization; it’s pretty good stuff!

  3. Davidh Digman

    This was a useful article, thank you. I suspect that a lot of writers already use this technique without having a name for it. I do find I have long used this in my characterisations. For example, in my current work-in-progress, I have a protagonist who wears a star sapphire pendant that is mounted upon a gold chain. Unlike just about everything else she does, she is very melancholy and even reverent in the way she handles it. I like to use small objects in private moments as ‘Eyepatches’.

    • Kellie McGann

      David, I have thought of it for a while, but had no name for it either! Thankfully Joe helped me name the technique.
      I love your antagonists star, very unique!

    • Davidh Digman

      Thank you!
      I also like showing things by means of going out of my way to have my characters NOT telling anything.
      Personal objects are useful devices to keep the character’s mouths shut so they can show instead.

  4. Davidh Digman

    On this subject as well, is that it is a good idea for any writer to have a working knowledge of human psychology. Memory is associative, and so psychological ‘eyepatches’ should ideally be triggered by events or objects in the environment.

    Combined with good scene setting, one can associate these types of ‘eyepatches’ with carefully chosen trigger elements in the environment.

    For example, if a character was traumatised in childhood by, say, the death of a sibling in hospital, then that may be shown by an unusually high aversion to hospitals, medical clinics or even any other form of medical intervention. Such a character may demonstrate this through odd displays of anger, avoidance or denial when they themselves, or any loved one, is ill.

    The possibilities are endless.

  5. PJ Reece

    Timely piece for me. I’m trying to amp up the “character development” of my aging protagonist. He has an obsession with humour, and has always aspired to be a comic, and always wonders if he’s funny. “Am I funny?” is a life-long question that haunts him… even as his wife is dying. So, is “am I funny?” an eye patch? Hmm.

    • Davidh Digman

      Hi, PJ Reece!

      I think ‘am I funny’ can be an eyepatch.

      Maybe he grew up amid a household of highly talented people, and his use of humour was the only thing he had to stand out and be heard.

      Perhaps humour was the only way he had of relating to his father who was otherwise emotionally cut-off.

      Perhaps ‘so you think you are funny’ was the sarcastic retort of his emotionally violent, personality disordered mother in response to his use of wacky humour to survive her abuse.

      Or perhaps both of his parents had terrifyingly short fuses, but he was safe with them — so long as he kept them entertained.

      There are any number of reasons why ‘am I funny’ can be a great eyepatch.

    • PJ Reece

      Davidh… Thanks for those insights, which go deeper than the one I am imagining for his humour obsession. I think this is the key to my character. Cheers.

    • Davidh Digman

      Happy to help!

    • Kellie McGann

      PJ, I like the question. It does make me wonder why he obsesses so much. Would be interesting to see if this obsession manifests itself in any other ways.
      Good luck in your developing!

  6. aGuyWhoTypes

    The timing of this post is so freaky! The other day the postman parked at his usual spot, on the side of the road, under the shady oak. I’m the last to get my mail in my block as he makes his up and downhill walk. I heard the creaking of my mailbox. I opened the door as he was leaving. I happened to get a glimpse at his bandaged forehead.
    “You, doing OK Frank?”
    “Yeah, I’m fine.” He never looked back. “I gotta keep going, gotta keep going.” He picked up his paced and turned left and walked down the sidewalk. I quickly closed the door and ran over to my living room window that faces the sidewalk to get a better look at him. I noticed something a bit strange about the bandage. It looked a little loose and partially blood soaked, as if it was recently bandaged. I ran out the door and around the back of my house and watched him walk to his truck, throw his satchel in and instead of driving off he walked across the street and behind the corner of the apartments. I ran across to his truck and peaked around to see if he was alright when I saw a UPS truck drive away with no sign of Frank around.

    • Carrie Lynn Lewis


      So what story have you developed to explain that? Grins.

    • aGuyWhoTypes

      This is the whole thing so far updated:

      The other day the postman parked at his usual spot, on the side of the road, under the shady oak. I’m the last to get my mail on my block as he makes his up and downhill walk. I heard the creaking of my mailbox. I opened the door, just as he was leaving. I happened to get a glimpse at his bandaged forehead.

      “You, doing OK Frank?”

      “Yeah, I’m fine.” He never looked back. “I gotta keep going, gotta keep going.”

      He picked up his pace and turned left and walked down the sidewalk. That was odd, he usually chats a while. I quickly closed the door and ran over to my living room window to get a better look. I noticed something a bit strange about the bandage. It looked a little loose and partially blood soaked, as if it was recently applied. I ran out the door and around the back of my house. Reminded how out of shape I’m in. I paused to catch my breath at the corner. I work out of my home. Being inside for hours, it took me a second to adjust to the cleansing smell of fresh breeze heated by the hot noon sun and sounds of soft leaves brushing together. Promising myself to get out more, I watched him walk to his truck and throw his satchel in and instead of driving off he walked across the street, behind the corner of the apartments. I ran over to his truck and peaked around to the side of the apartments. The brake lights dimmed as a UPS truck drove uphill gaining speed and made a sharp left turn in an alley. All was quiet and I was all alone. No sign of Frank. I casually peered into his mail truck, nothing looked out of the ordinary. I stood up straight and kept walking down the sidewalk to way lay any suspicion if anyone had been watching. I jay walked a backward angle toward the corner of the apartments. I looked for anything unusual on the street and sidewalk. Unfortunately or fortunately; however, you want to look at it, what started strange ends even stranger with no sign of anything out of the ordinary. I crossed over the road back to the mail truck. Not sure what to do and not wanting to look like a snoop. I called 911 and when I realized I wasn’t sure if this really qualified for an actual life-threatening emergency I was about ready to hang up and forget about what I saw.

      “911, what is the nature of your emergency?”

      “I think the UPS man kidnaped my mailman.”

      “Can you tell me that again?”

      “uhmm, yeah. I think I saw a UPS man kidnap my mailman.”

      “Sir, you do realize that a prank 911 call is a felony and can lead to prison time?”

      “No I didn’t know that.” My left arm was shaking and a bead of sweat made its way down the right side of my face. “I didn’t know what else to do mam. That’s why I called.” She must have noticed my weighted breathing.

      “Everything will be OK. Just relax I’m sending someone over now.”

      I panicked, realizing I didn’t have any proof and they probably wouldn’t believe me anyway. I hung up the phone and ran from the mail truck to my walkout basement entrance. I pulled the shades on the door and locked the door and the deadbolt. I huffed and puffed myself up the stairs as fast as I could go. I ran over to the window that overlooked the sidewalk. I shut off the window unit air conditioner and pulled the black drape.

      I’m a panster and I’m not sure where to take it from here. I’m thinking of doing a scene cut and going with the ups man and the mailman. I’m thinking they were trying to pull off some sort of neighborhood robbery that went wrong. That would explain why the mailman got hurt. Who knows…

    • Carrie Lynn Lewis

      That certainly advances the story.

      Although I confess I’m expecting a body in the mail truck….

    • Kellie McGann

      That’s very good! You definitely captured my attention!
      Is the bandage your “eyepatch?” Interested in the backstory and what it means to him!

    • Collis Harris

      Wow, a Guy Who Types, you have me hooked with that “eye patch”! There’s a whole lot of story I’m very interested in discovering.

  7. Vincent Harding

    Yet another gem of a post on this site. Great stuff, Kellie. Are you by chance familiar with The Flight of the Conchords? It’s a comedy show that was HBO about two folk singers from New Zealand trying to make it in NYC as a band. They have an episode where David Bowie visits one of the characters in a dream, and tells him to wear an eye patch. And for the same reasons you give here, but in more of a branding sense, like Bowie and his eye patch era. Just thought it was a funny coincidence. Regardless, your post was insightful, thank you!

    • Kellie McGann

      Ha-that’s so funny! Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to look it up!
      Glad you liked the post!

  8. Kenneth M. Harris

    Dreo stole a payday candy bar from the drug store. He slid the candy bar into the pocket of the
    guy in front of him. Sled was always
    unaware of things around him, so he didn’t feel the candy bar in his pocket. They
    left the store, Sled strolled slowly toward the corner to wait for the
    bus. He did not feel Dreo hand pull the
    candy bar from his back pocket because his pocket was larger than a hand. However, Dreo was stunned when he notice Sled
    had added another tiny silver hooped earring hanging from his right ear.

    Four earrings in one ear, he thought. He was so close behind Sled that his breath
    rubbed Sled neck. Sled was startled and
    turned around. “What the…” .

    “It’s only
    me! I didn’t know that was you,
    man. I just happen to be in the store
    and saw them earrings. You added another
    one? You already had three in one ear.”

    “Man, you can’t
    talk. You still haven’t told me why you
    have a tattoo of two cats sitting down with their tails curled around them on
    your neck.”

    “Well, let’s put
    it this way. They are the only ones that
    love me. This way they always close to
    me.” He bit into the candy bar.

    “Why do you say
    that?” asked Sled.

    • Kellie McGann

      This is really interesting Kenneth!
      Interested as to what meanings the cats have. Good job creating that eyepatch!!

    • Kenneth M. Harris

      Kellie, please forgive me for being so late getting back to you. Ya know, this is such an awesome experience with all of these prompts. I am old man now and I have learned so much. I have always been so uncomfortable and insecure about my writing. These prompts has helped so much, especially Joe who is just great. I Graduated for Columbia college with a degree in fiction writing. Now, as far as the tattoo is concerned. For some reason, dreo is comes from a wealthy family that has the money, but lacks maternal that most kids need. Drea has always loved cats and they love him back. His tattoos of those cats keeps them closer to him, if that makes any sense. Thanks again Kelli

  9. Carrie Lynn Lewis

    Great post, Kellie.

    One of my characters is afraid of confined spaces because an older brother routinely locked him in a closet and tormented him with a variety of things (including dead cats). The residual fear years later is an eyepatch, right?

    Another character is panic-attack afraid of heights. I don’t know why, yet, that’s also an eyepatch, isn’t it?

    And yet another years a baby cry years after he talked his girlfriend into an abortion. This character spaces out occasionally, usually after close contact with children who are about the age his child would have been had it lived.

    It looks like DavidH was right. I’ve been using the technique for a long time. I just didn’t know it had a name!

    Even so, thanks for the clarification!

    • Kellie McGann

      Carrie, I like your eyepatches! It looks like you have been using this technique! Glad we could name it for you! 😉

  10. Beth Schmelzer

    My main character does not like, actually she abhors, her first name. At the age of 11 she finally wants to find the origin of this name, but her mother is missing.
    Just recently read a great mystery-writing technique attributed to Lee Child. Ask a question….and then don’t answer it. Very mysterious style, don’t you think?!
    I am surprise the blogger is not weighing in with comments on this post.

    • Beth Schmelzer

      I am sorry I mistyped “surprised.” It must be the heat or sleep deprivation.
      It is unlike me to make those type of mistakes even in blogging comments….

    • Kellie McGann

      I misspell things WAY too much for a writer. 😉

    • Kellie McGann

      Very interesting tactic! I like that your character doesn’t like their name. Interesting.

    • Collis Harris

      You had me hooked with that first sentence, Beth.

  11. Allyson Vondran

    My main antagonist has taken over the witch empire. She had fond liking of books. Her own personal collection is larger than anyone alive. This however was brought on by a girl she had once loved. Well every couple centuries the ‘ancient’ or ‘first witches sleep for a century. The youngest witch, Assandra wakes a decade before the other eleven. When Terra, the eldest wakes she murders Assandra’s wife. Though her other sisters try to comfort her stating that the girl will be reincarnated in a few centuries. This though does not sate Assandra’s anger so she lets Terra take over earth only to permantly kill all of her sisters.

    • Kellie McGann

      Allyson, that’s quite the backstory! I would love to hear what your antagonist does throughout your story that hints toward her past.

    • Allyson Vondran

      Thank you! So far she begins to raise younger witches into war machines creating a growing fear in the human race. The amount of fear increase the witches power which allows Assandra to build her empire more. The more she creates her empire she regrets it though. Every girl she sends out against the hunters (humans against the witches) she envisions as the girl she loved. In an attempt to gain power not controlled by fear she kidnaps the protagonist and though she keeps a strong face in front of the hero behind the scenes she keeps thinking of her older sister imaging how she would have reacted. Iris, the protagonist reminds her strongly of one of her sisters and she sort of goes crazy. Assandra has many ups and downs as her future intertwines with her past, it begins to drive her crazy and she starts seeing her siblings everywhere. In one of the final battle’s the final straw is pulled when she sees Iris’s little sister, Sarah. Upon seeing Sarah she sees Natalie, her past lover and this allows Iris to temporarily knock her down. From then on it gets sort of complicated and I have to sort through the plot.

  12. sherpeace

    Hope you don’t mind if I repost this on my WordPress blog. It will then repost on FB, TW, LinkedIn and Google. I will make sure the byline goes too!

    Historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is a/b an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    My husband made a video for my novel. He wrote the song too:

  13. Tori

    My main character has scars all over her body from being severely abused even tortured by her father. She wears long sleeves and pants all the time even in the summer. She is distant and often clears her face of emotion. She doesn’t have any friends and gets into a lot of fights. When she fights she is graceful and strong for her size, she never loses a fight. I want to write something where her story is in the POV of everyone around her so no one ever knows what she is thinking or feeling.

    • Collis Harris

      I can see already that she’s an interesting character, Tori, especially when the POV is those around her. I’d like to read that.

    • Kellie McGann

      Tori, that sounds great! It would also drive me crazy never hearing her POV, very good!

  14. Melindrea

    She stumbled out of the train. No luggage, only her purse clutched in her hands. Loving faces, loving greetings, but none for her; for her only pain and emptiness. The warm breeze on her clammy face chilled her to the bones. She ran.

    • Kellie McGann

      Interesting, and very sad. What eyepatches are you using here?

    • Melindrea

      Her inner scars, the emptiness/pain. She was victimised by a serial killer, but survived because another of his enemies (someone he was stalking, and whose parents he had killed) found and killed him.

  15. Viv Sang

    My antagonist lived at a time when the practice of magic was forbidden. He suffered from the death of his parents at the hands of bandits and was found and taken to the home of the lord. He is small and teased by other boys who are jealous of his position. One day he spontaneously releases magic and injures another boy. The penalty for using magic is death.
    There is an attack by raiders from abroad and he is sold into slavery. The death of his parents, the bullying of the other boys and the sale into slavery give him a hatred of his native land and a desire for revenge.
    Eventually he returns to exact this revenge. This is where the story begins.

    • Kellie McGann

      Viv, very interesting. I like the backstory. I wonder what noticeable or invisible eye patches he has because of his painful story.

  16. Jim Finley

    One of my two co-protagonists has a long, puckered scar on one leg from an attack by a wild hog in her early teens – she killed it with a hatchet, but it gored her first. She also has a sprinkling of small pock-marks from an illness that hit her whole family when she was nine and killed all but her and her mother.
    At first we see her and her co-protagonist (her stepbrother and best friend since age eleven), moving through a forest, when they spot a sounder of hogs in a clearing ahead. She closes her eyes for a moment, shivers, and unconsciously runs her thumb up and down the scar on her leg, then clenches her teeth and gets ready to deal with the situation.

    We learn the story of the scar later on, in a very brief (3-4 paragraph) flashback triggered by a remark from her stepbrother – the flashback does double duty by also showing the role in that event of two other characters.

    She also has an unconscious habit of running a fingertip over the pocked scars on her hands and forearms when she’s around people she feels are more attractive than she is. We learn about that part of her history when she visits the graves of her father and siblings just before she leaves that community.

    • Kellie McGann

      Jim, this sounds great! I like the triggers that make her unconsciously touch her scars. Sounds like you have a great start!

  17. Cynthia Franks

    I’m not sure about this article. This is not a new technique at all. It may be a new way to explain it, but the technique is very old. Personally, I don’t have trouble with character, so I did not find this article as helpful as some of the other posts. It does remind me I need to write an article about building character. I have a unique process.

    I’m curious how writer’s who struggle with character feel about this technique.

    • Kellie McGann

      Cynthia, this is definitely an old writing technique. Like mentioned, it’s used in a lot of great classic literature.
      The can’t say I love you is a great symbolic eye patch.

  18. Bob Ranck

    The character I’m concentrating on now has no visible scars. He’s a always squeaky-clean. However, when he senses anything starting toward his deepest fear, he retreats – almost figuratively – and whips out his sketchbook and pencils and draws perfection where he fears rejection/loss/pain or the immediate potential for stress.

    He looks and sounds simply innocent at first glance, but underneath, the dread of potential loss drives him to imagine, and to draw, the perfection he knows should be his.

    • Kellie McGann

      Bob, this is great. I can see a few eye patches here. The obsession with cleanliness and the sketchbook!
      Thanks for sharing!

  19. Ric

    I used this technique as a spark for brainstorming a new character/story. It’s about a girl who is playing a harmonica outside a store, sitting with her backpack to one side and her dog on the other. She has a tattoo about the size of a dime, about the size of a dime, on her left cheekbone, but she got the tattoo to obscure a scar she has there (combining too of the above techniques). I haven’t quite figured out where the scar comes from yet, but so far, this has been a decent image to get me writing.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Kellie McGann

      Ric, that’s a great eye patch. Can’t wait to hear more! Good job developing your character. I like that you don’t know where the scar comes from. It’s like you’re figuring it out together.

  20. KN Jackson

    My protagonist is a young driven professional carrying internal scars from the unexpected loss of her fiance’ the day after proposing. Her career as a fashion buyer keeps her in the company of people at all times and her best friend urges her to start dating, when she is not quite ready. She is a people pleaser and tries to take care of everyone but herself. Leaving her no time to heal. She is too busy for therapy and her life is spiraling. No one knows how bad she is suffering.

    • Kellie McGann

      This is so sad, but makes for a very good, complex character. Wondering what eyepatches she might have from this tragic loss.

  21. Alchavers22

    One of my character antagonists has an “eyepatch” as well, so to speak. It’s in a book that I’m currently working on, a fantasy epic. Let’s see how to explain this in a basic way: he’s a rich, sadistic count with a silver hand. The silver hand is both a symbol of his monstrosity and the dark past he suffered as a child. It goes a little something like this (haven’t finished fleshing out the details): he was a spoiled child who couldn’t be taught or disciplined so his mother sent him away to live with his uncle: an excommunicated wizard/mage, due to his dark and horrific practices. While the boy lives with his uncle, he is exposed to all kinds of torture/debauchery that his uncle practices. His uncle often abuses him and one day crushes his arm in a fit of drunken rage, using a magic spell. The uncle doesn’t wish to send him back his mother (his sister) that way, since the boy comes from a wealthy and prestigious family so he gives him a silver hand and animates it so it can move the same as a human one. The silver hand is the mark left on him by an abusive relative and also a symbol of the abuse he acts out towards other characters, specifically children. He is an absolutely horrific villain, but bears a history that shaped his impulses. That’s my “eyepatch” description. Hopefully it wasn’t too freaky.

    • Kellie McGann

      This is super interesting! I really like the silver hand. I can see it symbolizes a lot of things. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Evolet Yvaine

    In the book I’m working on now, my heroine has a scar that starts at her hairline, bisects her right eye and ends in the middle of her cheek. As a former EOD (Explosives Ordinance Division) Specialist, she sustained the scar while deployed in Iraq and it was the reason she was sent home. My heroine’s sister (they met in middle school and the girl eventually became part of her family towards the end of high school)–who I plan to write about at some point–was the victim of abuse by her father and two older brothers. Her mother committed suicide to get away from the abuse and they just basically switched the abuse to the sister/daughter. Her “eyepatch” is the fairy wings tattooed across her back.

  23. HopelessDreamer

    My main character’s crush has 4 tattoos from gang affiliation and underground werewolf boxing. He used to be a boxer when he was 13 through 17, but his mom made him quit because she thought it would make him aggressive and make him turn out like his father, whom he barley knows about. Gang affiliation is when his mom was sick, and they didn’t have enough money to pay. So, he joined it to help deliver and make drugs. Even though he made the money and paid off the medical bill, he got caught by the police, and got arrested for 4 years (until he was 21.) No one knew where he had been, and no one asked.Although, the protagonist is getting a bit fishy when she discovers the tattoo.( It is an evil jester with a bloody crooked smile.) He can’t tell because if he did, his past would catch up to him and he would kill her.

  24. Bill Cook


  25. Bill Cook

    When I first started writing my novel, I thought about giving my protagonist an
    ‘eye patch’, but decided against it, thinking it felt gimmicky. After
    reading, “This New Characterization Technique Could Transform Your
    Writing,” by Kellie McGann, I’ve changed my mind.

    I think the addition of eye patches would make almost any work of fiction more
    interesting. The trick would be to not have their inclusion seem forced.

    Their occurrence should be natural, without undue attention paid to them,
    at first. As your story unfolds, opportunities to further develop the
    EP will occur to you, making it an integral part of your story.

  26. Charles

    Eyepatch technique seems to be similar to what older books called “Tags.” Interesting blog.

  27. James Wright

    Very helpful article Kellie, I will be using this when creating new character in the future.

  28. Bruce Carroll

    Akiko has several “eye patches.”

    1. A past she can’t remember.
    2. Blindness.
    3. An astonishing array of martial arts skills.
    4. Strange words pop in to her head from time to time, triggered by something she thinks or experiences. They may be in a foreign language.
    5. Dreams of a mysterious man, who apparently taught her something when she was only six years old. There also seems to be a link between him and the strange words.

    No wonder people have been saying they enjoy reading my story as I write it!

  29. Jay Hicks

    My character is a reclusive older woman who shuns moderninity in all its forms, living alone on the old family farm. She has an unknown relative show up, a young man from the city who is looking for his roots. After she faints at his likeness to her long-dead brother, he gets to look closely at this rather wild looking woman and notices his great aunt has a scar running along her hairline from forehead to behind her ear and wonders about her story.
    I had not deliberately added this ‘eye-patch’ for any reason other than to allude to the story of her being pulled into an auger on the tractor when she was helping her father, and was almost scalped. But I’m now glad I have! I’m trying to decide if his saving her is how her father dies – rather brutal, but that’s what farming can be like.
    I was inspired to use the scalping incident after reading of a woman here in Australia who had this happen to her.

  30. TerriblyTerrific

    Very good. Thank you for this article. I think we all have some symbol in our history, which requires further looking.

  31. suddenlyshorty

    Love this. This is super relevant considering I’m currently writing a story about a woman with bionic implants. The narrative plops the reader into a scene where she lives in an orphanage with physically deformed children as a part of her witness protection identity and her story unfolds slowly as she befriends the children that she was originally terrified of. I’m thinking of revealing her backstory with each augmentation, maybe a quick flashback about how she got it and what it means to her. Once her back story and the world setting is somewhat clear, that’s when the story really kicks off. I’m wondering if this will be too slow or confusing of a way to open up the story but her relationship with the weird yet awesome, kiddos is already pulling at my heartstrings as I write it.



  1. Piensa, planifica, escribe, edita. Repite hasta morir. (Y otros recortes literarios) - Gabriella Literaria - […] poco di con este artículo de Kellie McGann sobre caracterización de personajes que me encantó. Siempre he dicho que…

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