A guide to creating characters

Characters are the ingredients of a good story. Without good characters, readers will lose interest in what you’re trying to share. First of all, let’s focus on the basics. 

Note, this is not all of my own. It’s has been collated from various online courses I have done as well as online sources. It’s merely been written in my own words, changed and elaborated so as to give a full guide in one place and to share what I have learned.

The basics

Round characters – You will often hear people talking about round VS flat characters. Flat characters are boring, predictable and most likely simple. That’s not why people are reading books. What you need to create are round characters. These characters are intersting, unpredictable and best of all fun to use. A sign of a good character is one who controls the story. You, the writer or just following them with your pen. 

You have to add depth – You should be able to do this through the creation of your character anyway but it’s also an important topic to keep in mind. There are a few ways you can add depth to your characters. Simply, it’s a way to make your characters more human. For example by making your characters make mistakes or contradict themselves.  

Remember, a good character will misbehave and change your storyline as you write.

Minor characters – Minor characters are just as important in a story. It’s especially important to keep tracck of the ones you create to avoid mistakes such as changing there name or job role halfway through the story which can happy more often than you would think. If you lose track, make a list and pin a rememorable point to each character to help you e.g. a distincitve odor of dogs or a cleft lip. 

How to create your character – using what you know 

Below is a short list of pointers to focus on when creating your character. These won’t necessarily be included within your story but will help frame the character in your own mind. 

  • History, Experiences & Memories
  • Feelings & Desires
  • Language
  • Imagination & Observations
  • Ideas

Character Questionnaire

Below is a questionnaire, similar to that you would fill in for a dating profile. If you’re struggling to create your character then start from here and build on.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Place of birth/ Residence
  • Occupation
  • Appearance & Dress Sence 
  •  Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Obsessions & Habits
  • Ambitions
  • Hobbies
  • Illness/ General health
  • Family – Parents, Kids, Siblings
  • Friends
  • Pets
  • Politics
  • Pet peeves/ tics
  • Diet – Drugs/ Coffee/ Alcohol?
  • Sex life/history 
  • Favorite books, music, movies
  • Desires & Fears
  • Any Traumatic events?
  • Most wonderful experience
  • Struggles past and present

Create a Character Summary

Now you’ve filled in your questionnaire, create a character summary. This is similar to a bio. Write about what they look like, how they think, how they behave, where they live and some info on there back story. Where are they now and why. 

  • Physical description
  • Thoughts and inner life
  • Personality
  • Where the character is located
  • The character’s back story

Framing the character – Creating Reality 

Now you’ve got the basics of your characters it’s time to make them more real. 

  • Consider all the factors that go into making your character. Use the checklist for help. 
  • Know your character’s inner life, everything from how they think and act to the routines they have.
  • Know about your character’s behavior. What they wear, et, buy, how they act at work VS home. How they behave towards specific people e.g. parents VS people they don’t like. 
  • How does your character speak and how does this change according to mood or situation. 
  • Imagine your character and describe every little detail about them which makes them unique. Everything from there hair and moles to the way they dress and what they own. 

Questions to ask yourself 

  • What is your character thinking? 
  • Can you add little bits here and there about there backstory or past life? 
  • Can you put yourself in your characters shoes? 
  • Does how they behave match how they speak? Check for discrepancies.
  • How does your character act in the world? What would other people think of them VS what they think of themselves. 
  • Can you imagine the characters? If not then you need more detail.
  • Are your descriptions predictable and obvious? Are they generalized i.e. stereotypes or are they unique? 
  • How does your chracter contradict themselves. What is there innter turmoil? 

Let me know what you struggle with when creating your characters. Do you struggle to add depth? Maybe you struggle with the basics? For a bit of fun, create your own character using the above information and tell me about them as if selling them to me. 

Should you study writing?

Some people will tell you that courses in writing are a waste of time. The most basic and influential way of learning to be a writer is by writing and reading.  You observe and write what you see. You read and then write some more. This is the simplest way to learn and improve your skills. You learn by doing. 

So, should you study writing? Simple answer. Yes and no. It solely depends on what you’re studying and your reasons for it. Let me explain.

If you want to sharpen your tools and techniques, talk to a community filled with other writers that can, in turn, help each other to become better writers. Then studying a course may be the perfect thing for you right now. Writing courses offer a safe space to experiment and practice with the knowledge that everyone is in a similar boat. You don’t have to worry about receiving a negative reaction such as you would from friends and family. Instead, you will most likely be offered genuine advice and criticisms on how to improve. Courses are great for a pick me up or boost when you have gotten as far as you can on your own. When you get to that step that you just can’t seem to swing your leg over.

On the other hand,  writing courses aren’t great for everyone and some courses are better than others.

There is no such thing as a good writer or a bad one. Every writer is different and what someone hates about your writing, someone else will love (as long as you put your whole heart into it) so sometimes courses aren’t great for certain people. Maybe you’re picking the wrong course and it’s too limited and is teaching you how to be a certain kind of writer. Sometimes you can find yourself on a course filled with hateful people that think they’re superior. They will dumb down your work and quote books you’ve never heard of. Don’t waste your time with those people. Sometimes you may even have a crap teacher or course. It can’t be helped. 

It’s a bit of a lottery finding a perfect course for each person but the benefits are plenty in my opinion. 

So, should you study writing? Yes, when you need to learn and improve your skills with a different tool. Courses are a great place to chat with other writers and really tune into your skills. They help you become a more knowledgeable writer. Just don’t expect everything to be easy or different with your writing as soon as the course is finished. Things take time and writing is a long winding road with plenty of hidden junctions.

Why I don’t have a schedule and why you shouldn’t work to one either.

This is something that I see a lot of bloggers get asked about, as a reader and a follower if you enjoy someone’s content it often becomes a thought in your mind that you wish they posted more often. You wish there was more to read and more to explore but some bloggers, YouTubers etc don’t have a schedule and I’m one of them.

Quality VS Quantity
If I write what I want, when I want then it’s going to be better quality. I can work on a blog post and get it to the level I want, do more research etc sometimes over the course of a couple of weeks. Whereas if I have a schedule I am more forced to try and think of something to write about which means it won’t be at the level I want it to be because it will be just that, forced. I find it a lot better to write about things as they’re fresh in my mind, as they approach my life and they give me something amazing to write about whether that’s a recipe, mental health, writing or my everyday life.

Recently I wrote a post about being in Solitary confinement because I watched a video about it on youtube. I wrote what I would say is a good insight into me and my life and it’s exactly what I wanted, I  had the motivation to write and was in the correct frame of mind to give it my all when I did which means it’s a great article over a good article.

Transfer this lesson
Not having a schedule isn’t just something I follow with the website. It’s something I follow through life. I spent many years having a plan and telling myself what I was going to do. It doesn’t always happen like that. I tried food plans, schedules for the day to help anxiety. Everything made me feel constrained and forced to do things which turned my favourite hobbies into chores.

On the other hand what I see as me being positive and motivated is allowing myself the freedom to do what I feel like doing. Not to the extent of wasting my day but in terms of writing for example. Some days I will work on my book, other days I will write varying topics on my website because it solely affected by how I’m feeling on that day.

This doesn’t work for everyone but it works perfectly for me. It allows my creativity to flow without hindrance which only increases my productivity and motivation, therefore allowing me to write more awesome content for you guys.

Would you agree?