One of the first and most challenging steps in writing a short story, poem, or novel is crafting your characters. Think of characters like Harry Potter, Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson, and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. When you read about these characters, you can’t help but feel like they’re real people with real lives, real dreams, and real relationships. Crafting a strong character is an essential aspect of the story-writing process. A strong, well-crafted character can make your piece unique and memorable.
To help you on your character-writing journey, we’ve compiled a few essential tips for creating nuanced characters.
- Give your character clear physical characteristics: Give us a visual of the character that you created. Your reader should be able to paint a picture of what your character looks like in their mind.
- Give your character a clear and unique personality: Is your character bold and ambitious? Or are they envious and selfish? Tell the reader, both directly and indirectly, about what kind of creature your character is.
- Define your character’s goals & motivations: Your character should want or need something that they don’t have. What is that? Does your character want to make his school football team? Is your character an orphan who wants to figure out who her biological parents are? Figure out what your character desires and communicate that clearly in your story.
- Establish your character’s conflicts: Does your character have enemies he or she must overcome? Does he have a fatal flaw that prevents him from achieving his goals? Every character in a good story faces obstacles that prevent him or her from reaching their desired destination. Figure out what those obstacles are and how they influence your character’s ability to achieve their goals.
- Give your character a backstory & showcase the effects of the backstory: Where is your character from? What past relationships has your character had? What significant events in your character’s past influence the way that your character behaves in the present? Think about what people or events in your character's life may have shaped them into the kind of creature they are now.
- Create a character arc: What kind of creature does your character start out as, and how does your character change throughout the course of your story? Does your character start off unsure of who they are and end up with a better sense of self, or do they end up exactly where they started off? Think about whether you want your character to be static (unchanging in their ways) or dynamic (changing in their ways). Your character’s arc can shape the message and tone of your story, so think about it carefully.
Developing characters is a challenging but exciting part of the story-writing process. If you are interested in learning more about the story writing process, sign up for Write On!’s specialty novel writing workshops! Whether you are writing your own story or just curious about what character writing is all about, our specialty workshops are a great place for you to hone your writing skills and learn something new.