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How to Develop Your Story Character

Updated on April 20, 2019
Kurt Frazier 056 profile image

Kurt is an elementary school teacher that loves to write short stories. He is a storyteller to his three grandchildren.

What Do Writers Do?

Writers write. It's as simple as that.
Writers write. It's as simple as that. | Source

This is your story

Imagine that you are sitting at your computer. You have an idea for a story, and now you are going to fulfill that idea using some characters that will interact with each other in your fictional world.

It does not matter what the length of your story is, it could be classified as flash-fiction (100 - 1,000 words), a short story (1,500 - 30,000 words), a novella (30,000 to 50,000 words) or a full-length novel (55,000 - 300,000 words), every story needs characters to survive.

Where are you going to find the characters that you need for your story?


There are a number of ways to develop a story character.

  • You could use an online character generator.
  • Combining qualities of people that you are acquainted with.
  • Patterning the character after family members. Example: The characters in the story "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott were inspired by her family members.
  • Ask friends or family for character names, qualities, and other information.
  • Make an online poll asking for help.

I have discovered that it is usually at this point in the creation of a story that a couple of pertinent questions come to me.



Which Do You Prefer?

Which one of these do you prefer when creating a character?

See results

I Have a Question or Two

What are you searching for?
What are you searching for? | Source

1. How does this particular character fit into my story?


What role is this character going to fill?

These are necessary characters in any story

  • The Antagonist
  • The Protagonist
  • The Romantic interest

Which of these roles will be filled by your character?

  • The primary character
  • The secondary character

Will the character be...

  • A live character
  • An inanimate character


Characters make the story real

Please choose me
Please choose me | Source

Characters Wanted

Calling all characters! Looking for excitement. We may have what you are looking for.

Contact the author for details

Don't Forget the Basics

There are the beginning basic characteristics that all characters have in common.

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Hair color
  • Eye color
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Employment
  • Location

These features are all important, but they are just the basics. We need to know in-depth who our character is and by asking a few thought out questions we can discover as they say, what makes them tick."

Who Are You?

I am your character.
I am your character. | Source

2. Have I used this character before?

At times I have chosen to bring a character from a previous story into a new story. In this case, the character will often exhibit some different characteristics than in the previous story.

For example, in the story "The Son of Thun" the character named Case Maximal is a young adventurous lad full of mischievousness, and then in a later chapter of the book, The Son of Thun - All Grown Up" he has become an older, compassionate man that is concerned because as he travels around the world he discovers that children no longer seem to want to be outside playing.

Although the character is nearly the same, there are some notable changes in them. Perhaps it is a character flaw that is brought out into the open when they meet an undisclosed adversary. Or it may be a rekindling of a flame when they meet up with an old friend. Or maybe it is a lesson that is learned because of extenuating circumstances.

What three things do I need to know about my characters?

Since the characters that we choose to use can make or break the story there are some important things that the author needs to know about the character presented.

  • What do they dream about?
  • What scares my character?
  • Who, or what has had the greatest impact on the life of my character?

Tell it to the world
Tell it to the world | Source

Here We Go

Some important questions

1. What Do You Dream About?

To my prospective character,

I believe that everyone thinks about the future. Because of this fact, I am curious as to your thoughts of future events in your life.

One of the things that I need to know concerns the dreams that you have. What is your heart's desire, and to what degree will you go to see that dream fulfilled? Is there anyone or anything standing in the way of seeing your dream come to fruition?


2. What Scares You?

There are many things that people fear, what is it that you fear the most and why does it bring terror to your heart?

Is your fear mentioned in this Top 10 Fears list?

  • 1. Fear of Spiders – Arachnophobia
  • 2. Fear of Snakes – Ophidiophobia
  • 3. Fear of Heights – Acrophobia
  • 4. Fear of Open Spaces – Agoraphobia
  • 5. Fear of Dogs – Cynophobia
  • 6. Fear of Thunderstorms – Astraphobia
  • 7. Fear of Small Spaces – Claustrophobia
  • 8. Fear of Germs – Mysophobia
  • 9. Fear of Flying – Aerophobia
  • 10. Fear of Holes – Trypophobia

Do you know of any way to combat that fear?

Is there anything that I could do to help relieve that fear?

Don't mention this to the character; is there anything that you as the writer could do to exploit that fear?

What circumstances could you drop the character into to push them over the edge? What would the results be?

3. Who or What Has Impacted Your Life?

My final question for you today is this; who or what has made the greatest impact on your life?

This could be a tricky question to ask of your perspective character. Examine all of the possible answers that they could give you.

  • Is it a positive response?
  • Is it a negative response?

If the response is a positive one the character might be willing to go to any length to repay the kindness. On the other hand, a negative reaction might bring about feelings of jealousy or revenge.

What could the results be if the response is a mixed one?


Starting to Write: Developing Character

Article Sources

Pictures: Pixabay

Fears: Top 10 Fears

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Kurt Frazier Sr

Comments

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Kurt, this was a very interesting article and you offered some very valid and helpful questions to pose to any prospective character. I will certainly use this information in my future writing.

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