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How to Create a Character for a Story or Novel

Updated on October 13, 2017

What is Inspiring Your Story?

Source

Keep all Your Character Information on Record

First and foremost write everything down about your character. Keep it in a paper file or on your computer.

You will need to refer back to your notes to ensure consistency of information throughout the whole piece of writing and off course you will keep adding to it continually as your character expands and grows.

Write With Descriptive Words and a Empathic Heart

Try to convey what your character is feeling. Ask yourself what that would be and try to convey it in your words.
Try to convey what your character is feeling. Ask yourself what that would be and try to convey it in your words. | Source

My Example Plot

Purely for the purpose of this hub and ease of showing what I mean, I want to use the following bones of a plot, which shows the beginning of a much longer tale. This will help us to visualise exactly the type of character we need to bring to life:


The boy was born with very special parents. He was unaware of this.

He was given up for adoption at birth, to stop the family genes from activating.

Which was the normal code of practice within the society which governed his kind.

He lived with his human parents, trying to belong and fit in. He never quite did. Too emotional, too strong willed and too inquisitive.

He worked in a garage as a motorcycle mechanic and hated his job.

He runs in the evenings for fitness and to escape the questions sprinting around his head.

He kept trying, his adoptive parents tried and the years slid past in a somewhat tense and slightly uncomfortable haze.

He was twenty one when the dreams started. The dark haired woman with the brown eyes, calling on him to go home.

That is when it all began...




Starting With a Basic Plot and Setting

So after many long moments of deliberation, frustration and ultimately euphoria, you have the bare bones of a plot. Not just any old plot but a very fine one.

Now that you know roughly what is going to happen in your story, and therefore the world that it needs to be set in, you are ready to develop your characters.

By using a character of my own, as an example, I want to show the different stages of their development. Using this example should hopefully make it much easier to illustrate.

As you can see from the example plot on the right hand side we have a man who has never really fitted in very well. He is about to find out why. He must then accept and digest that information and swiftly move on to save his true family. Obviously to face this task he must be strong, brave and moral. However nothing is ever that simple and he has other personality traits and emotional baggage which make it difficult for him to find or believe in happiness.

This is just the basics and the beginning. It will give you enough information to create your character and understand how he/she will react to certain plot situations, but it doesn't give the whole picture. As you work through the piece of writing keep on adding to your character file. Recording their past, present and future. Note their schooling, allergies and even their favourite drink and takeaway.

You will soon create a fully rounded character from what was initially only a brief idea on a page.

My Character's Human World

We don't always see the whole picture.
We don't always see the whole picture. | Source

What we Need to Create in my Character's World

We now know the basic plot and we also know that our character:

  • Lives in a modern human world.
  • There also needs to be paranormal world outwith but with access to the human realm.
  • There needs to be ties between those worlds.
  • The human world is as we know it with family and normality.
  • There is no historical aspect to the novel so it can be set in current times which gives the opportunity to add some well known products to give credulity.
  • We need to be wary treading on the supernatural path. We need to make the unbelievable sound as is if could be possible.
  • Over embellishment with the supernatural doesn't sit well when supposedly based in our human world.


My Character Must Also Have a Gateway to a Paranormal World

For my example character plot we need not only our normal human world but also the existence of a paranormal world as well.
For my example character plot we need not only our normal human world but also the existence of a paranormal world as well. | Source

My Example Character's Basic Information

  • He is strong, brave and beautiful. We need a name for a hero and a warrior. I will call him Draven.
  • We will see flashbacks to his past as we move onwards. But at the novel onset Draven will be twenty one.
  • He has dark brown hair, shoulder length and wavy. With dark brown eyes, lightly tanned skin and high cheekbones. His teeth are white and he has dark pink full lips. He has a large tattoo of a phoenix on his left arm and a birthmark on his left ankle.
  • Standing six foot four and muscular.
  • Above average intellect but due to a low boredom threshold for lessons, his grades were lower than they should have been.
  • Strained relationship with adoptive parents. No step siblings or other family. No long term friends and only very brief relationships with the ladies.
  • Fundamentally moral and honest. No patience, emotional issues surrounding being given away at birth. Difficulty forming relationships with others due to feelings of mistrust.
  • Morally decent but with huge walls surrounding him and keeping everyone else out.
  • The only thing he believes in, is himself.

The Character Basics

  • Choose a suitable name. Remember to keep in the time period and location.
  • Age. The age also needs to be appropriate for the task in the novel.
  • Looks. Is the character attractive? We need hair colour, eye colour and skin tone. We need to build a mental picture of the character in our minds.
  • Build. Are they strong? Tall? Like their age, their build needs to be task appropriate.
  • Intellect. Clever? Normal? Likewise this is task appropriate.
  • Family. Any notable relationships. Any history? Conflicts?
  • Emotions. Are they loving? Damaged? Happy? The most believable characters will be a mix of everything. Humans are complex creatures.
  • Morals. Are they a good person or a bad? Characters need to show good and bad traits or they are wooden and won't come alive.
  • Spirituality. Are they religious? Do they believe in the paranormal or a higher power?
  • Job. What do they do for living?
  • Interests. What are they interested in? Where do they spend their spare time?
  • Wealth. Are they comfortable or struggling with money. How does that tie into the story?

Calm Waters Mask Hidden Torrents

Characters have to be created in a physical form but we also need to find out what lies beneath the surface.
Characters have to be created in a physical form but we also need to find out what lies beneath the surface. | Source

My Example of Balancing the Good and Bad Traits

As we know Draven is a good guy. Troubled and complicated but a good soul.

If we were only showing him as full of goodness:

'Draven stared at the woman who had fed him for twenty one years. Although sad she had never loved him, he felt grateful for her sacrifice. It can't have been easy taking a child in and he tried to always remember that.'

This doesn't work. We are all human. We feel and we hurt. It makes Draven flat and uninteresting. Now we will try to show the conflict within his character:

'Draven stared at the woman who had fed him for twenty one years. He looked at her cold eyes and felt the familiar anger rise. He wanted her to feel small and lonely. He wanted her to cry herself to sleep every night like he had as a boy.'

With the second example we can see the emotion, we can feel the pain and we understand why he has turned out the way he has.



Include the Good and the Bad in Your Writing

One thing that is really important in your writing is to remember and balance out the good and the bad within your character. Nothing is ever simple and within every successful story there are hidden secrets, twists and turns waiting for us.

The kindest soul out there with the biggest heart, still has flaws.

Perhaps they talk too much or their breath smells. The epitome of evil incarnate may have a black heart but you need to show some normality or positive traits.

I know this sounds strange but it will create balance in your character.

The good soul will be boring and stereotypical without any personal idiosyncrasies and the black soul will be much more frightening with traces of humanity seeping through their black veins.

Look to the example on the right to see how the balance of good and bad traits affect my character Draven and how it changes our perception of him.

Can Your Reader See and Feel Your Character Through Your Words

Can your reader feel, see and connect with your character through your words?
Can your reader feel, see and connect with your character through your words? | Source

The Characterised Conclusion

You have now created the physical, emotional and situational building blocks of your character. Keep adding to this basic file as you move on with your story. The character will evolve and grow with each passing chapter. Just like in real life, experience brings on emotions and reactions and as individuals we all have the power to change and then either stifle or grow.

Think as your character would, how would they feel, what would they say. As time passes you will grow closer to them and their reactions will come more easily.

Thank you for reading and I hope there is something of use to you within these words. With every step you walk with your character and everything you see through their eyes, your own journey as a writer will evolve right along beside them.

Evolve Your Character to Face Their New World

Change happens and with it can come evolution. Bring your character on and let your reader share their pain and ultimately their triumph.
Change happens and with it can come evolution. Bring your character on and let your reader share their pain and ultimately their triumph. | Source

Do you Write a Profile for Your Character?

Do you consciously work out our character's profile?

See results

Show the Broken as Well as the Whole

Life is a journey and just like your readers, your character will have whole and broken facets within them. Show the weak and vulnerable as well as the strong and the brave. Give them the potential to reach for wholeness within your novel's pages.
Life is a journey and just like your readers, your character will have whole and broken facets within them. Show the weak and vulnerable as well as the strong and the brave. Give them the potential to reach for wholeness within your novel's pages. | Source

Is Your Character in Focus?


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Bring Their World to Life

Your character will come alive and breathe life into your tale.
Your character will come alive and breathe life into your tale. | Source

Do You Feel You Now Know Draven?

Do you feel you have got to know our character Draven?

See results

Walk Forward with Your Readers into Your Brand New Fictional World

Take your readers forward into your amazing new world.
Take your readers forward into your amazing new world. | Source

© 2014 Anna Haven

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    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Aviannovice

      Thank you very much for reading. You are right; a character without substance just slips from our minds like sand.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Faith Reaper. I am glad you liked Draven. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you FlourishAnyway for reading and for your kind words.

      I like how the character starts to come alive, as you add each layer of past, personality and present tension. Thank you for the vote and share.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very insightful to the fact that we must describe everything as we would like it to fill a well rounded life so we can hold it in our mind's eye.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Great hub, Anna, comprehensive and with so much insight to benefit all writers. I love your character, Draven! Your photos always add so much to your hubs too.

      Up and more and away

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge as to creating a character!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      This is a fantastic hub, Anna, with not only good advice but good demonstrations. I have shared it, voted up +++. Such a terrific job.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi epbooks

      Thank very much reading and for your kind words. :)

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Wonderful tips in this hub! I keep a notebook with a lot of this information but I think I'm going to add some of your suggestions to keep me on track. Great hub!

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      I look forward to it. That is fab that you are so busy with your freelancing. Busy is good and a clear testimony to your writing skills.

      Thank you that was a nice thing to say...and you know what they say...it takes one to know one. ;)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Anna, admittedly, I'm behind in "The Gifts of Faith". I've got a massive re-write job going on right now (100 articles for a client) that is taking up all my time. I will get to it tho, I promise!

      I look forward to Draven's story. You are a very captivating and talented short story writer, my friend!

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Bravewarrior. You must have a lot of information now for Faith' s world. I am looking forward to your next chapter and catching up with the girls.

      I have penned some of Draven' s story so I could post . Thank you for liking him and wondering. Anna :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Jodah

      Thank you for reading and for your kind comment. Mostly thank you for liking Draven. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you tobusiness. I love taking photographs and Hubpages is a great way to mix them in with my writing. Thank you for pinning as well. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Frank. Your characters are always full of hidden depths and layers, which keeps us all on our toes. Anna. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Jackie.

      Your book sounds interesting, I love the idea of unicorns and phoenixes and even have a small tattoo of a unicorn!

      Perhaps it is time to bring your magical animals to life. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thanks Nell. That would be really interesting to read the book now and see what has changed in our current world now and your book's current world written back in the shoulder padded 80's. :)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Awesome hub, Anna. Your characters always have substance. I'm pleased to say that I do write down my characters traits and add as I go. This article is well-presented. Now I'm ready to hear from Draven. Will he be appearing in the near future?

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wonderful advice Anna, and I love the character Draven. I don't really write a character profile as I have only ever written short stories. If I was writing a novel or lengthy story I would have to keep notes and develop the character's background.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      What a great hub! I love the images you used to drive home the points. This in very useful, I'll be pinning it to keep for referencing. Thank you for sharing.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      helpful, I never write down anything about my characters, but it looks helpful.. I like the instructional feel and easy to follow details and the examples.. in all great Hub plus useful

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I think this info could help anyone write a book Anna! I am not into the paranormal but I have written with fantasy animals, which I suppose is along the same lines. It never really went anywhere after I was asked to cut it back for a childrens book, it just lost its magic; but I fell in love with the characters and they are with me still!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I wrote down too much for my book I wrote back in the 80s! lol! the book is still in the drawer, written on an old electric typewriter! I think the book was smaller than the notes! lol! great advice anna, nell

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Glad I raised a smile. :) Thank you for taking the time to read and for sharing your own experience. My memory isn't up to storing lots of information, I need to write down! Enjoy your weekend too Bill. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You had me laughing after the first sentence. The first time I tried to write a novel, I didn't write anything down about my characters to use for reference. I was driving myself nuts trying to remember things about him, including his name. LOL

      All great suggestions which I highly recommend.

      I hope you are having a lovely weekend.

      bill