ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Write a Character

Updated on March 23, 2019
Disastrous Grape profile image

Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.

Yesterday, I was working on a vampire story (yes, so trite, I know), and I decided to write it from first person perspective. Doing so was difficult for me because I normally write in second person. But I wanted to follow the tradition of most vampire novels and write from the direct perspective of the characters.

While I found the story engaging enough to write (which means someone might find it engaging enough to read) the main character herself was a problem. She didn't have much of a personality yet, and I was having a hard time trying to figure out what her "voice" should sound like when she's narrating.

An easy way to figure this out is to use a method I learned from my evil Creative Writing teacher, Mrs. Berkle, who I mentioned in another article.

Actually, I learned this writing exercise from Janet Burroway and her book Imaginative Writing, but we'll give Mrs. Berkle a small amount of credit for throwing the book at my head a few times. It's more credit than she ever gave me.

Step One: Fill in the Blanks

We are going to do this thing called a Character Sheet. If the name doesn't make it obvious, a Character Sheet is a sort of outline that helps you get a basic grasp of who your character is and what you're trying to say with them.

The first thing we're going to do is finish a sentence about our character.

Here is the sentence you'll be finishing:

____ is a__ ___ ___-year-old ___ who wants ____.

That's basically it. What you're doing is figuring out the desire of your character, because that's what a character is: desire. A character has to want something, because content people make for lousy stories.

In fact, a character who wants nothing isn't a story at all. Unless you're writing an Everyman Character like Bilbo Baggins or Arthur Dent (perfectly average and content characters who are propelled into wild adventures by their weird and whacky friends), your character needs to want something.

So let's figure out what your character wants. Here is my filled out sentence:

Alex Evans is a shy twenty-six-year-old librarian who wants to save her sick twin sister.

This is how I would fill out the sentence.

Look how easy that was. With one simple sentence, I put my character and perhaps her entire story into focus. I know what she wants, and based on the adjective before her age, I know how she's likely going to go about getting it. She is shy, so it will be a struggle for her, and that will be a part of her character arc.

There really should have been two adjectives, actually. But if you're feeling up to it, why not insert three?! (Say that last sentence out loud. Like, really loud. Double dare ya.)

Step Two: Expand

In step two, we will make a list and fill it out with things our character would most definitely do.

We will ask the question

What makes ___ ___?

Then we will fill in the blank with things we imagine our character doing. Like so:

What makes Alex Evans ___?

Laugh . . . People who try to best her at chess.

Cry . . . Her own helplessness. She needs to be in control.

Smile . . . Children enjoying a book.

Angry . . . People who make assumptions about her.

Tired . . . Working late hours without coffee.

Frightened . . . Her own helplessness.

Desperate . . . The helplessness of others.

Stressed . . . Trying to please others.

And just like that, I expanded my character and got a better idea of who she is in my mind.

Keep in mind that you can use any words you like to supplement the ones I used here. You can ask yourself what makes a character trust, hate, pity, show compassion. You can make this list as long as you please, as long as you need.

Go wild!

© 2018 Ash


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)