5 Essential Tips For Character Writing

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Last Updated on January 8, 2020 by Katherine

Writing characters for a story can be super stressful! Click here to for tips to remove the stress!

Everyone loves good writing. If you’re anything like me, you like reading and writing a good story. For a story to read well, you need some kick-ass characters. If you’re struggling to create a character, I hope the following tips and tricks that I use will help you out. If you have some tips or tricks of your own, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

I’ve written this on the assumption that you already have a name, picked out. If not, there are scads of inspiration on the internet via google.

Writing characters can be stressful! Let's figure it out together!

1. Appearance

Even words need to be visual, that is, they need to describe something. Think about how you want your character to look. It is essential to think about both what you want to share with the reader and what you don’t wish to share. For example, I’m presently writing a futuristic spy novel where the main character is a woman, but I’ve intentionally left her physical appearance somewhat generic because I don’t want to focus on her looks, I want the focus to be on her actions and her abilities. Other pieces I’ve written, I’ve deliberately gone extremely detailed for a variety of reasons. The way you describe a character will depend mainly on the impression you want to leave your reader and how much imagination you want to give them (as readers will imagine left out details on their own usually).

Some questions to consider:

  • How old are they? Do they look that age? Do they look younger or older?
  • What color is their eyes/hair?
  • Describe their skin (ie: smooth, pimply, dark, translucent, etc)
  • How tall are they?
  • What gender are they?
  • Do they have any discernible marks, like a tattoo or birthmark?
  • Anything unusual about facial features? (Such as a honker of a nose or big giant eyes?)

2. Background/History

Your character has to have a story, unless they’re being born in the first scene of the work, they’ll have some sort of background that led them up to the point the story picks up. It will have bearing on how they will react to things.

In addition to events, you are going to want to think about how this backstory has given your character vices. The best characters have a weakness. Some questions to get that wonderful writer’s brain going:

  • What was their childhood like?
  • Did they have an imaginary friend?
  • Who was their best friend in school?
  • Did they like school? Hate it?
  • What are they good at? Do they have any hobbies?
  • What do they suck at? Is there an activity they’ll actively avoid because they hate it so?

3. Allies & Enemies

Like the real world, your character is going to have people who are either their enemy, their ally or maybe a neutral person who hasn’t developed an opinion about them yet. I generally have about fifteen to twenty characters for a novel, if not more. How detailed your planning needs to be will depend on how crucial they are in the plot.

  • Who is their mentor? Maybe they haven’t met them yet?
  • Who do they love? What made them love this person?
  • Who do they hate? What events led to them hating this person?
  • Is there someone who is just kind of there? Do they serve a purpose or are they just a filler?

4. Setting

Check back next week for a post about scenery, but this section will delve into the topic briefly. Our surroundings impact us all in some way. When I create characters I spend some time thinking about where they are currently and how that climate, weather, etc. will affect how they move through the story.

For example, someone who has spent their whole life in, say, the state of Arizona, is going to have a massive adjustment if they suddenly find themselves in the Pacific Northwest. The most key questions to ask yourself, in as much detail as you can muster, is:

  • What does their “normal” everyday location look like?
  • Describe the “new world” or a new situation that gets thrust upon them.

5. Character Goals/Aspirations/Etc.

Your characters need to have some sort of driving purpose to life. Even if it’s somewhat satirical, like “I just want to have a nap”. There has to something that motivates them to act.

  • Do they have a belief in something? Such as religion? How will that affect their decision-making process?
  • What do they strive for?

I hope you found these tips helpful. Let me know down below in the comments.

Also, are you looking for ways to be more productive? I have a free 7 item list for download, all I need is your email!

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