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Writing Tips: Creating a Character

One of the most important aspects of a story is character, character relationships, and character development. Sometimes I struggle with making characters believable. An important aspect of creating a character is to make the character relatable to your audience- make your characters more human. Everyone has flaws, and it’s important to remember that your characters should have flaws as well. They should not be perfect, they should be able to solve problems, but not necessarily quickly or easily. This will help drive the plot forward overall, and give you more of a template for how your characters would react to different situations.

Character development prompts

I’ve created a list of basic prompts that could be used to help you create a character. It doesn't really matter if it's a main character or minor background character that will only appear in a few scenes. Not all of the prompts may be used in an actual story, but it’s fun to get to know your own characters on a deeper level, even if the information is never revealed to the audience.

  • What does your character look like? Hair, clothes, height, age

  • Where do they spend most of their time? With who?

  • Who are their family? Create a family tree to show their relatives, even if they’ve never met them. Go as in-depth as you want

  • What do they like to do? What do they absolutely refuse to do?

  • What are your character’s favorites? Make a list of things that your character likes or dislikes that you can incorporate into the story.

  • What is your character afraid of?

  • Are they able to overcome their fears? How?

  • What do they want? What is their goal?

  • Who do they answer to?

  • How do they cope under stress?

  • What makes them stressed?

  • Do they have any quirks, traits or habits that are distinctive to them?

Having a basic outline of your character, and knowing as much information about them as you possibly can, allows you and your readers to get a better understanding of who that character is and why they act the way that they do. If you know your character, you can add as much detail to them as you want without worrying about keeping the information straight, because you know that you have the outline of them already. You can write down their allergies or things that they’re drawn to or any specific detail that you may want to incorporate into the story. This way, even if the information is never used or used directly in the story itself, you’ll be able to better write the character because you will already know them.

-Caitlin Barnard

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