Great Characters

Creating characters is one of the most exciting and intricate aspects of storytelling. Well-developed characters can drive a story forward, engage readers, and become iconic in their own right. Here’s a guide to creating compelling characters:

1. Start with Basics:

  • Name: It can set the tone for the character. Consider its origin, meaning, and sound.
  • Age: This can influence the character’s worldview, physical abilities, and relationships.
  • Physical Appearance: While not always necessary to detail exhaustively, key features can be memorable or inform character history.

2. Delve into Backstory:

  • Family: Family dynamics can shape a character’s personality, values, and motivations.
  • Past Traumas or Triumphs: These can be crucial in defining fears, motivations, skills, and desires.
  • Education & Occupation: They can provide insight into the character’s skills, daily life, and social status.

3. Personality & Traits:

  • Strengths and Weaknesses: Both make a character relatable and multi-dimensional.
  • Likes and Dislikes: These can be used to add depth and make a character feel real.
  • Habits & Quirks: Small, consistent behaviors can make a character memorable.

4. Motivations & Goals:

  • Internal Motivation: This is a deep-seated reason for a character’s actions, often linked to emotion or personal history.
  • External Motivation: Tangible goals or needs that drive a character’s actions in the story.

5. Relationships:

  • Friends & Allies: Relationships can provide support, create conflict, or showcase different facets of the character.
  • Enemies & Rivals: These relationships can drive the plot and reveal the character’s strengths and weaknesses.

6. Character Arc:

  • Growth: How does the character change or evolve over the course of the story?
  • Static: Some characters remain largely unchanged, serving as pillars or constants in a story.
  • Decline: Not all arcs are positive; some characters may face a downward trajectory.

7. Voice & Dialogue:

  • Speech Patterns: These can indicate a character’s background, education, and personality.
  • Unique Phrases or Slang: Consistent language use can make a character stand out.

8. Role in the Story:

  • Protagonist, Antagonist, Sidekick, Mentor, etc.: Each character should serve a purpose in the story, whether it’s driving the plot or supporting the main characters.

9. Flaws & Conflict:

  • Internal Conflict: Personal struggles within the character, such as fears or moral dilemmas.
  • External Conflict: Struggles with outside forces, be it other characters, nature, or society.

10. Research & Inspiration:

  • Real-Life Inspiration: Drawing from real people can add authenticity.
  • Diverse Experiences: Researching backgrounds, cultures, and experiences different from your own can create well-rounded, respectful representations.


  1. Avoid Stereotypes: Strive for depth and avoid one-dimensional characters.
  2. Character Sheets: These are tools where you can jot down all details about a character, helping maintain consistency.
  3. Evolution: Allow characters to evolve, even beyond your initial plans. Sometimes they’ll surprise you!
  4. Empathy: Even if you disagree with a character’s choices, understanding and empathizing with them can lead to richer storytelling.

Creating characters is a blend of art and craft, intuition and planning. The more time you invest in understanding and developing your characters, the more real and compelling they’ll become to your readers.

StudioBinder’s breakdown of Characterization – YouTube video

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