Writing Tip – What Makes a Character?

If we think about what makes a person we get;

‘A person is built up of the people and situations that surround them.’

We are influenced by the people in our lives and we develop based on the situations we find ourselves in. This should be no different from fictional characters.

A good way to start character development is to ask questions about them. I start with things like this;

  • Who is he?
  • Where does he come from?
  • What does he want?
  • Then I go onto more in-depth questions like;
  • What was the worst thing that ever happened to him?
  • What was the best thing that ever happened to him?
  • What action does he regret the most?
  • Who loves him?
  • Who hates him?
  • What are his goals in life?

The main thing a character should be driven by is an underlying need, whether it’s basic survival, money, family, or to build an evil galactic empire. This need should drive the plot and the contrasting needs of different characters will create the conflict in your novel.

Personally I like to write about people who have weaknesses and flaws, who’ve made mistakes and have regrets, but people that try to do good despite these things. All of these things arise from asking questions. Give them a past, give them a life, give them hopes and aspirations then weave it into the plot.

How characters react to conflict is good to show their character, and how their personal need fits into the conflict. I love internal conflict and how a character chooses between two conflicting ideals. It shows a lot about their character.

No person is 2-Dimensional. Everyone has layers to their personality; secrets, surprises, and everyone is hypocritical to some extent. The bravest soldier can still be frightened, the smallest child can be so brave.

Remember; everyone is made up of the people and situations in their life. So give your characters a life. Start by sitting them down and interviewing them. You might be surprised at what you discover.

What kind of Characters do you like to read about? Please discuss.

Thank you for reading this post.

This is a good article by Holly Lisle – The Character >Workshop – Designing a Life<
This is a good article by Nathan Bransford on >Sympathetic vs Unsympathetic Characters<

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