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Character Creation

Easy Character Development Tips for Beginner Writers

Developing strong, expressive characters is paramount to any good story. Just like the leaves on a tree, characters grow and change and fall. Your reader should feel they are reading about people—people with lives and feelings and doubts and fears. Creating a whole person may seem daunting, but character development doesn’t have to be.

Character development may seem complex, but it can be a simple, quick, and straightforward process. However, what often happens is that writers put all their focus on the main character(s) and the rest of the characters remain stagnant.

To avoid this, you can use a character development worksheet (there will be a free printable available below!), or a similar tool to ensure each character has at least some thought behind it.

This method is quick and covers the (in my opinion) necessary information to have a dynamic character. However, if you’d like to dive deeper, I have a story bible (aka a novel planner) where you can develop every part of your character.

For now, though, we’ll stick with the foundation of character development, which I like to separate into three parts: basic information, additional information, and relationships.

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Basic Information

The basic character information includes any surface-level facts such as name, age, and physical description.

When it comes to naming characters, I prefer using a placeholder name until I write and become more familiar with them. This is fine if you want to jot down a random name for now—don’t worry about it too much.

Age is important to an extent, but it doesn’t need to be specific. You can choose an age range like early-20s, mid-30s, etc.

As for your character’s physical appearance, this may change as you develop your character, but you do want to keep track of what they look like. If you don’t, you may end up writing small details about their appearance and they may become inconsistent. I like to find a picture of someone who likes similar to what I imagine the character to look like.

The basic character information alone doesn’t make for a well-rounded character, so for that, we’ll need to go deeper.

Additional Information

Additional information sounds vague but includes the deeper, inner characteristics that make your character come alive. This could include personality, likes and dislikes, hobbies, fears, goals, wants and dreams, quirks, etc.

Some, if not most, of this information may not make it into your story, but it’s necessary for you to understand your character and the way they move through life. This additional information influences the way the character reacts to situations, handles challenges, and interacts with others.

Get To Know Me

Since additional character information usually includes ‘get to know me’ type info, I’ve created a little Get To Know Me worksheet you can fill out, answering as if you are the character. This is a fun exercise to deepen your understanding of your character and can help break writing blocks when it comes to character creation.

By doing this exercise, you can get to know your character more personally. However, this activity isn’t necessary for creating well-rounded characters and can be skipped. I thought I’d include it anyway, for those of you who are interested!

Relationships

Developing your character’s relationships is a great way to make them come alive. The relationships you should focus on are any that impact the story or are important to the character. This may include friendships, relationships, family relationships, and may even include enemies, bosses, neighbors, and more.

When developing these relationships, be sure to understand the relationship between the characters (i.e. they’re related, they went to school together, etc.), how they interact and get along, and how their relationship fits into the plot (is this a mentor, a love interest, a minor character, an antagonist).

Remember: A Compelling Character Is…

  • layered
  • unique
  • relatable
  • flawed

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