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Creating Characters for Creative Writing

Updated on November 7, 2011

Sometimes creating characters for your short story, play, or other piece of fiction, can be extremely difficult. I generally start the piece without much thought in the characters, letting them evolve as I write, but this isn't always the best place to start. I've found in some cases, such as with the piece that I'm working on now, creating the characters first really gets me involved in the lives, wants, and hates of the characters.

Creating your characters first will often help develop your writing.

What's great about creating characters is that they can be who and what you want. There are no rules as to how you design your characters. If you want a nasty villain who's also a drama-laden prom queen, you can do that; if you want a scaly-faced pizza delivery boy who fights crime and has wings, you can do that, too.

Depending on what genre you're into and what your main focus will be, you'll find that your characters will vary greatly, but when creating your characters, consider some of the following tips.

Since most stories have multiple characters, you'll want to consider all characters that you may encounter. Whether main characters, a part of past memories, or just a stand-n character that only appears for a piece of a scene.

Start with your main characters- protagonist and antagonist. Also consider any other main/secondary characters who will play a big part of your writing. Consider genders, ages, and major goals. For main characters, you'll also want to consider any background history, personality traits, appearance details, habits, fears, motivations, mannerisms, motivations, and secrets.

When it comes to supporting characters that aren't as big of a part in your plots, you'll still want to create a synopsis of the characters, but you won't need to go into as much details. Just make sure that you are familiar with the characters. Figure out their genders, ages, appearance details, personality traits, and a little background information.

Create character profiles of your characters, including:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Appearance - Height, Weight, Body type, Facial features (eyes, complexion, nose, lips, etc), Hair, Clothing style, Body modifications (tattoos, piercings, etc.), Visible scars
  • Personality Traits - Nervous ticks
  • Job
  • Background - Parents, Siblings, Overall family life, Education, Friends, Birth place, Religion/beliefs, Heritage
  • Career
  • Hobbies/Talents
  • Best/Worst Qualities
  • Fears, Motivations, Goals

The more your character will be in your plot-lines, the more information you will want to know about them, but that doesn't meant that you have to share the information with your readers. It's just good for you, as the author, to know your characters inner thoughts, secrets, needs, and wants, even if your readers don't need to know. There are some things that you want your readers to be able to read between the lines.

You want to be able to empathize with your characters, but you don't necessarily want to sympathize with them. You want to know why your characters do what they're doing and say what they're saying. You don't have to sympathize with the villain, but you want to empathize as to why your villain is acting the way he/she is.

For help creating characters, make sure to watch people around you and listen to stories of friends and family. You'll be able to grab more realistic characters when you put into play situations, phrases, personalities that can grab attention, and characters that will cause your readers to empathize.


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    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 16 months ago from Georgia

      No. A job is just an activity to which you earn money, whereas a career is the pursuit of a lifelong goal. Compare a receptionist to a doctor- one is a job and one is a career.

    • profile image

      Izzy 2 years ago

      Isn't job and career the same thing??

    • nochance profile image

      Chloe 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Character cheat sheets are always a good idea. You need to know the information to write it even if it doesn't get said in the actual story. Very nice hub. This is going on my list to promote during National Novel Writing Month.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      The more detail the better.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 6 years ago from Georgia

      Your tips for creating character profiles are great. They are particularly helpful if you leave a piece for any length of time and then go back to it. Sometimes the little details that may have originally evolved in your character will have been lost. The profile will ensure continuity. Voted up.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 6 years ago

      I like your tips....thank-you. I do seem to have a bit of trouble, at times, fleshing out my characters. I will try your ideas to smooth out the process. Good hub voted up!

    • tlpoague profile image

      Tammy 6 years ago from USA

      Great tips for creating your characters. I love to imagine what my character would be like then try to describe them in an everday scene. If I get stuck, then I think of a family member and some crazy event they might have done. It has helped me to write my Big Nam series.

      Thanks for sharing these helpful tips.