Creating Characters

One stop place for creating someone interesting.

I love characters.

As an endeavouring writer, my favorite thing about writing, reading, or watching any story are the characters. A story begins with a character. They are the people we identify with; the mirror through which we can examine ourselves. Their struggles, their pain, are what drive the story. I love them - the good, the bad, the ugly, and all those in between.

But characters are not always easy to write. They have to be believable enough for the audience to understand them and their struggles. They have to be discernable from the others in the story, and they must be relevant enough to the plot to be worth existing in the first place. No easy task.

Hence this website. This is meant to be a brief, crash-course guide to making a character that you can write a story around. It's by no means comprehensive or absolute law, but it is a source to help you jump start the process.


The Role.

Every character you create needs to have a reason for existing in this story. Consider what's necessary for the story you want to tell. Do you need an antagonist? A mentor figure? A brother? Make sure this is someone who will contribute to what happens or to the point you're trying to make in the story.

The Inspirations.

You can't conjure something from nothing. The best way to get started with a character is to consider sources to draw from. Real life examples often are the best; characters become a lot more believable when they act like people you know. Referring to other, fictional examples of the kind of character you're creating is also a good way of getting ideas. If you understand the tropes and cliches that are often involved with that character, then you can work to re-use or subvert them in a way that best suits the story (generally, however, it's better to avoid repeating cliches). Check out the link below if you'd like examples of tropes.

Character Tropes

The Motivation.

This is crucial to a good character. They have to want something. A character shouldn't be totally aimless; there needs to be a reason for what they do. The reason doesn't need to be complicated, but it needs to be understandable. Backstory and plot are key devices in helping us understand what somebody wants and why they want it.

Beneficial Traits

What are characteristics this person has that are helpful to them? Are they smart? Kind? Determined? Experienced? These are the traits that make us admire the character and that enable that character to pursue their need.

Negative Traits

What flaws does this person have? What prevents them from realizing their need; what complicates their journey? Are they egotistic? Naive? Vindictive? Traits like these are absolutely necessary for any believable character. For a protagonist, these negative traits also tend to be a part of the story's core theme. A protagonist that has nothing in themselves to overcome usually makes for a shallow story. Even minor characters need some kind of flaw to prevent them from becoming flat and disinteresting.

The Need.

This goes hand-in-hand with negative traits. Just as a character wants something, they also need something. The character doesn't usually know what it is they need; a protagonist often discovers this need towards the end of their journey, while a villain either actively disregards or always fails to realize their need. It's the "what's missing" from this character's life. Perhaps your character lacks faith in themselves or others. Perhaps they need to forgive themselves or someone else. Maybe they need to be reminded of the value of family. Once a character has this, their journey is essentially complete (at least until the next problem arises).