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Building Characters for Your Novels

Updated on February 15, 2013

Character Building for Novels

How Important Are Characters In a Novel?

Whether a novel is fiction or non-fiction, characters provide substance that moves plot along. The best technique to build characters for novels is to choose a protagonist and antagonist who will play a large role in the plot of the storyline. It's important for a protagonist to be pitted against the antagonist. It keeps the pace of the plot invigorating to your readership and encourages readers to continue on with the novel.

Choose Your Protagonist

Even the most infallible protagonist must have some minor human flaws or they appear unreal. Treat the protagonist in your storyline as if he or she is thoroughly real. Try to imagine the total image of who they are. Some authors choose to make their characters their "imaginary" friends as once they might have as children. As in real life, a protagonist must encounter some resistance in the form of their nemeses in the world they live in. These issues can be decided early on by the novelist in a basic outline. Or, the novelist can jot down notes on this lead character as they are inspired by ideas.

Every Story Has An Antagonist

Novelists often choose their antagonist from among some of the most difficult personalities they've encountered in their personal lives. The antagonist can also be a melange of several difficult personalities. This gives this character a lot of leverage in how far into the extremes the antagonist can reach to create the building of the plot to the main crisis.

The Psychology of Character Building

For the purpose of the literary world, there is a psychology to building characters in a novel. It begins with the author's own inspirations and ability to translate life experience into the substance of their characters. Search deeply the aspects of human nature to discover the best traits for your characters. One recommendation is to review the works of the great philosophers. Philosophers are unusually aligned with the cerebral workings of human nature. This is the reason most avid readers of philosophers find a deeper message with the ripple effect of newer, more inspired ideas. These philosophic characters branched into many core areas like religion, ethics, science, metaphysics and languages. From Aristotle to Nietzsche, their characters are a study in the humanities that can help authors to define the characters in their novels.

Similiarities and Your Characters

Another way of building characters in novels is to define their characteristics from the root of their human nature. For example, if your character is a musician, take the time to study the human nature of gifted musicians and strive to define the core of their natures and the character traits that seem to link their natural talents and abilities. Look for the similarities in your character's human nature to the drive and ambition of the most iconic figures. Give your character added interest by deviating from these similarities when plot calls for diversion.

Are Your Characters Compelling?

It's important for your readers to know how your characters think. This cerebral operative creates the total vision of each character. It can also become a mechanism that helps the writer enhance the storyline. Some writers choose to create their characters before their plot. Other writers find their characters fit perfectly into the storyline and seem to flow easily with the intensity of the action of the plot. The important thing is that each character has relevance and substantiation. This is another way of making your characters compelling.


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