Character Building

By Justynn Newman


You have created a wonderful, detailed, and dynamic setting for your book to get place. Now you are on the right track. You conquered procrastination and you have your setting, and maybe even some of your plot.


The next step is to populate your story with characters as dynamic and awesome as your setting. Making a complex, interesting character can be difficult. Almost as difficult as it can be to meet such a person in real life. However, you are a writer, and it is your duty to make such characters. You may feel lost and you may struggle with creating someone with a full range of feelings and views. It is much easier to just throw in a character with a cardboard cutout personality, but nobody wants to read about them. Below I go over a few techniques that I find helpful for creating well-rounded characters.


How to Create Well-Rounded Characters in Your Story



The first thing to do is think about what your character’s role in this story is. Are they the protagonist, antagonist, antihero, hero, loser, etc? Once you know their role you can begin to flesh them out. What do they look like? How do they present themselves? Are they funny, mean, intelligent, dramatic, or something else? A robot from the 7th dimension would act and talk quite differently from Steve the Days Inn manager. That’s a bit of an extreme example, but keep in mind what your character is like at their core. Also, avoid focusing on just one trait. Come up with a few personality traits for your character. Incorporating multiple traits will help your character come to life!



Now that you have their basic personality down, you can start asking the most important question: why? Why is my character like this? Why do they behave this way? These questions are excellent tools in determining how your character became the person they are now. Take this time to write up a backstory. Who are/were their parents? What was their childhood like? Find out what shaped them and really try and think as this character would. Many times, it’s hard to separate your own opinions from your character’s thoughts and beliefs. With a well-developed story for each character it becomes easier to avoid having all your character’s voices muddle together with themselves. Keep your characters separate. Developing them before the story begins makes them more solidified as an individual’s: they become entities separate from yourself.  If you make your characters distinct, then they will come across as distinct to your reader.



Next, think about what motivates your character. Everyone wants to accomplish something and your character probably does too. Getting down to a character’s base motivations and goals will help you seamlessly incorporate them into your story. Think about your plot and your setting. Ask yourself, how can this character move, hinder, or add to the overall plot progression here?


If the answer to the question above is that they cannot contribute to the story, then scrap them. The people in your story are there because they are significant. If a character does not add anything substantive to the story, or worse takes away from it, then they need to go. It can be hard to let go of characters, but it is something all authors must do. Who knows, you may always be able to incorporate that character or idea into a future piece.


That is my tidbit of advice, feel free to share your though processes and techniques for building characters below!

Character Building