A Quick-Start Guide For Creating Characters

A Quick-Start Guide For Creating Characters


Creating characters properly takes time. In this post, we’ve created a quick-start guide for creating characters to help you when you’re writing.

Sometimes we have a character who arrives on the page fully formed, sprouting lines, and wreaking havoc. It’s as if they know exactly what they are supposed to do in the story. When that happens it’s wonderful, but that isn’t always the case.

Sometimes a character arrives and they’re more of a wisp. They’re still only an idea of who they should be.

As a writer, you want to keep the momentum going, so you don’t want to stop and develop that character right there. You want to get the words down before the wisp disappears, but you do need to establish a few things about them before you can continue.

A Quick-Start Guide For Creating Characters

Here is a quick-start guide for creating characters.

Past, Present & Future

Jot down a few ideas about the following:

  1. Childhood – how did they grow up? Were they rich or poor? Do they have a big family or is the character an orphan?
  2. Physical appearance – write down their hair and eye colour; a description of their clothes; their weight and height.
  3. Mental state – is your character in a positive frame of mind or are they facing challenges? Are they confident or shy? Are they brave or careful?
  4. Their goal or function in the story.

Top Tip: If you have more time, fill in our Character Questionnaires for your main characters.

OR

Online Profile

Create an online profile for your character. It can be for Facebook, Goodreads, or even Tinder. What kind of information would they share? What would they make public and what would they keep private? Would they lie or tell the truth?

OR

Childhood Memories

Events from their childhood will have a big impact on who they are. Take a moment to write one or both of these scenes.

  1. Write a traumatic event from their childhood.
  2. Write a happy event from their childhood. 

OR

Snapshot

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Find an image of a person who reminds you of this character. They don’t have to be a look-alike. It could be a person with a similar attitude. Stick the picture above your desk and use it to think about the character as you write.

OR

Dialogue 

What does your new character have to say for themselves? Make them talk as quickly as possible. We reveal a lot about ourselves when we speak. Describe their body language and thoughts while they speak.

The Last Word

This is only a quick-start guide to get you going. Once you have spent enough time with the character you will start figuring out who they are. This post will help you and once you have the basics sorted you will start fleshing out their biography. (This particular biography is called ‘From The Cradle To The Grave’. It is very comprehensive and it will help you to really get to know your character.)

When the words are flowing and the story is growing, don’t stop. Establish who the character is a quickly as possible. Write it fast, fix it later.

Top Tip: Use our Character Creation Kit to create great characters for your stories.

Mia Botha by Mia Botha

Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. How To Use Viewpoint As A Source Of Conflict
  2. How To Use Genre As A Source Of Conflict
  3. How To Use Sub-Plots As A Source Of Conflict
  4. How To Use Conversation As A Source Of Conflict In Fiction
  5. 31 Writing Prompts For May 2021
  6. Clothes Maketh The Character
  7. 6 Tips & Tricks For Writing Scene Transitions
  8. 6 Quick Fixes For Adding Setting To Your Story
  9. Where Does Conflict Come From In Fiction?

Top Tip: Use our Character Creation Kit to create great characters for your stories.

This article has 4 comments

  1. Amanda

    Great article, Mia! You’re one of my favorite Writers Write people!

  2. Snickerdoodles54321

    I love reading the Writers Write posts. They’re so helpful! I haven’t published a book yet–mainly because I am 12-years-old, but I hope I will one day–and Writers Write teaches valuable knowledge and tips. Thanks! 🙂

    • Mia Botha

      Just keep writing. Stories don’t mind how old you are they just want to be written.

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