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Establishing A Character For a Story

Updated on December 24, 2012

No matter what kind of story you are writing, you need to establish good characters. You need to be able to show their emotions, their past, how they act, how they look, the problems they are facing, and basically, you need to write about them as if they are your best friend. In this article I will explain how to establish good characters for your short story or book.

What or Who is Your Character?

There are many choices to choose from when you are deciding to create a character for your fiction. Depending on the type of story you are writing, you may want to make your character real to life, or you may want to make it very unrealistic when comparing it to everyday life. You should choose something unique, but not too far out that it is confusing to read. Once you have decided what or who the character will be, you can go to the next step. You will decide the distinguishing features of the character in the next step, but below I have put a basic distinguishing feature along with the character idea. You do not have to do one of these, but it might help you to decide on a character.

Character Ideas:

  • A homeless boy from the country of ______
  • A bunny who is curious about the human world
  • Some kind of object such as a table or a chair, but use personification in writing with it
  • An orphan
  • A high school-er
  • A banjo
  • A tiger
  • A man who owns a shop during the time of the Great Depression
  • A potato
  • A girl who yearns to go to a certain country
  • Be creative! Who knows what you can dream up?

Create Distinguishing Features

At this point, you should not focus on tiny details, such as outward appearance, or the feelings the person experiences. You should think about the role of the character in the story. A Character Sheet can help establish those features. You can make Character Sheet's as basic or as complex as you would like. Here is a basic Character Sheet:

Job (if any):________________

Main Desire:_________________

Main Goal in Life:________________________

Setting in which it lives:____________________________

Main Attitude (sardonic, cheerful, etc.):___________________

Draw your character!
Draw your character! | Source


Now is the time when you will establish how the character looks. You can also begin to think about their expressions when certain events take place. You can draw the character out to see how you want them to look, even if you do not want yourself to illustrate the story. After drawing the character from a few poses, examine them. Do you notice that the shoulders are rounded, broad, or square looking? Jot that down. Do you notice if the character is thin, average, or chubbier? Using an illustration can help you think of details you would not have thought about writing about before drawing the character. Establish eye color and hair color. Also establish how they react to things in their ordinary lives. What are their quirks? Do they hate hygiene? Can they not live without it? Are they always well groomed, or do they not care? What kinds of things do they like? What foods?

You do not have to write all of these when you introduce the character, and you do not have to put them in the story at all. These little details can be slipped in at later times, or they can be used against the character, just be creative! Maybe an enemy of the character finds his greatest weakness, and uses that against him? You never know how these little bits may add a lot to your story.

Go Over It!

Sometimes you can miss something vital in a character's personality, and you may need to think for a while before you see a spot you missed. You can even ask a friend if it sounds right. Never write because someone wants you to write that way, you should write your ideas, because this is your story. I hope this helped you to make a character!


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