How to Create Fictional Characters

Updated 10/24/2012

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Creating a fictional character can be done in a multitude of ways. There are plenty of methods, and none of them are truly right or wrong. What is important is to find methods that work for you. Below are ten methods I detailed to help me create characters. I usually use two or more of these techniques when creating a new character so that I get more than one perspective.

Character Bio Sheets

A bio sheet is a way of keeping track of a character’s physical description, traits and attributes. This method is familiar to anyone who enjoys role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Using a Bio Sheet gives you an excellent reference point to go back to when you need to remember key information about your character. Read article
Defining Characters By Their Roles

There are specific roles that characters fall into when you are writing a story. These include Hero, Mentor, Threshold Guardian, Herald, Shapeshifter, Shadow, Trickster.  Christopher Vogler’s book, The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers explores these roles in depth. Read Article

Building a Character Using Multiple Perspectives

This technique helps you to build relationships. You write about your character based on other people’s (characters in the story) views and opinions about that person. Read Article

Key Questions

This is a simple list of questions that provide insight into your character and how your character fits into your story. Read Article

Basing Characters on Real People

We often draw inspiration for fictional characters from people we know in real life. This article gives you advice on how to avoid some of the problems that can crop up when you translate a real person into a fictional one. Read Article

A Day in the Life

Once the events of a story kick into motion, main characters are pushed outside of their boundaries and comfort zones. Following your character through a typical day helps you figure out who that character is under normal circumstances. Read Article

Interview

This is a classic method of creating a character. You set up a situation in which that character is being interviewed (for a magazine, by the police, for a job, etc.). This not only allows you to delve into your character’s personality, it helps you to develop your character’s voice. Read Article

Biography

A biography is an in-depth exploration of the events in your character’s life that lead to who your character is at the beginning of the story. Read Article

Possessions

Defining what your character owns (and doesn’t own) provides insight into the character’s personality and circumstances. Read Article

Brainstorming

This is a stream-of consciousness method that allows you to think fluidly about a character without editing yourself. You write quickly and delete nothing until you are done. Read Article

 

One thought on “How to Create Fictional Characters

  1. I find that another way to develop a character, is to first develop the world in which they live. You want the character to belong in the world in at least one way. Some people build the world first, some the characters first.

    I think it depends on which one is a solidified idea first. For me it is usually the characters that are in constant redesigns, but I know what I want for my world they live in.

    Say your world is a combination of modern day and medieval era time frames. Build a character that can either fall into one part or the other, or that can bridge between the two realities.

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