Creating Characters

When your story needs a

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.

A woman dressed like a superhero.

Hence the 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.

Basic Tips

When creating a character, here are a few basic things to consider.

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.

The best way to get started with a character is to consider sources to draw from. Real life examples often are the bes and most believeable, but referring to other, fictional examples is also useful. 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).

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.

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. Perhaps your character needs 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).


Check out these images and see try to imagine what their personality and backstory are like!

A woman adjusting her rounded glasses.

Glasses Girl

What comes to mind with her? Is she geeky? Goofy?

An egg toy with cartoon eyes and an orange beak.

Egg Friend

Now how do you make sense of someone as strange as this?

A bronze sculpted gnome sitting on a fence.

Bronze Gnome

Who is this little fella? Why might he have a statue of himself? Is he actually the statue?

A man in scottish garb blowing on the bagpipes.

Bagpipe Man

Why do you think motivates this guy to go out and play the bagpipes? Do you think there could be a surprising reason?

A smiling dog.

A dog.

Can you attach any human characteristics or motivators to this dog?

Three women in the desert in sports gear, with the center one holding a white riding helmet.

Desert Women

Who are these three women? What are their relationship with eachother? Why are they in the desert?

A pale woman with glowing green eyes; a plastic halloween decoration.

Spooky Woman

Now what's her story?

An bearded old man holding a magnifiying glass to his eye.

Old Man with a Magnifying Glass

What do you think this old man is inspecting? Why?

A close-up of a puffer fish.

Puffer Fish

Try to see if you can apply a personality to something very far from human.


I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.

-Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Believe in your character. Animate (or write) with sincerity.

-Glen Keane

Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.

-Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Contact Me

Questions? Concerns? Ideas? Let me know!

Your message has been sent. Thank you!