At Imaginarium 2019, I sat in on a panel of several writers who gave tips for creating characters. Here are seven tips I took away from that session:
- Know the needs of your characters. What do they want most out of life? Figure out what your character wants concretely (e.g. to succeed at the small business she has started) and abstractly (e.g. approval from her mother) .
- Watch people. Go to places where crowds gather, like restaurants, parks, clubs, etc.) and take mental notes on how people talk, walk, smile, and so on. Make a list and use them for your character creations.
- Give your main characters both good and bad traits. No one is perfect. Your main characters need to have a few flaws to make them realistic.
- Allow the best trait of your character to be a double-edged sword. For example, your character may see the positive in everyone, but sometimes this leads to people taking advantage of him.
- Write the worst thing possible to happen to your character. Someone close your character dies. Or your character is abandoned by a lover when things seemed so perfect. These types of situations will draw out who your character really is.
- Brainstorm ten details of your character. In the beginning stages, when creating a character, write down ten specific traits to help your character stand out from the others in your story. These details should be a combination of physical and personality traits; the type of clothes they wear, the way their body moves, the kind of foods they eat and so on.
- Combine similar characters. Take a hard took at your cast of characters. Be honest. Are two or three of them similar enough they should be combined into one? You could end up with one strong character instead of two or three weak ones.
Here are some past blog entries on creating characters:
- Fleshing Out One-Dimensional Characters
- Fiction Writing Workshop: Character
- Scrivener Tip: Keeping Track of Characters