Are you looking to delve deeper into the characters you are writing about? Here are 23 tips for developing better characters for your stories.


Sometimes the best first step is to just sit down and write everything you think you know about the character. Just make a big sloppy list that you can edit later.

Make a list of their possessions 

A character’s possessions, from what they have in their house, to what they have in their office, to what they have in their purse or pockets can tell you a lot about a character.

Combine two people into one

Do you want to base a character on someone for real life, but you don’t want to get sued? Try basing the character on two people. Combine two people you know into one functioning character. 

Write a day in the life

Before the excitement of your story starts, what does a typical day in your character’s life look like? Follow them through their day, and you will learn a lot about them.

Interview your characters

Picture yourself as an interviewer for a magazine or a podcast. You might also try this from the perspective of a therapist. Ask your character questions about their life and have them answer in their voice.

Create a character sheet

Have you ever played a role-playing game such as Dungeons and Dragons or Pathways? Create a character sheet as if your characters were going off on an adventure. I’ll leave a couple of links in the description to help you with this.

Make a list of the places in their life

Where does your character like to go? What are their favorite places to eat, read, work, or just think? Also, what are the places they most hate to go to and why?

Make a list of their friends and enemies

Who are the people in this character’s life, and what is their relationship with these people?

Create a family tree

Unlike a list of friends and enemies, this is focused on their family, beyond brothers, sisters, and parents, it can go back several generations to look at the people who helped put the character where they are in life.

Describe their looks in detail

Go beyond height and weight. Spend some real-time thinking about how they look. What do they see when they look in the mirror?

Draw or find a picture of them

Beyond just describing how your character looks, try to create a reference picture or photograph. If you have the skills, draw them, otherwise, Google people with their general looks until you find someone you can really base your description on.

Give them a playlist

Pick the songs that best go with your character. You can either approach this as what they listen to, or you can look at it as the songs that would be playing if you made a movie or tv show about them.

Make them a to-do list

If your character was to sit down at the beginning of your story and make a list of things to do, what would make the list? Would it match what actually happens to them?

Take a personality test on their behalf

There are a thousand personality tests on the web. Take one, but try to answer in the way that your character would answer. You can take a serious test, or just try to figure out if your character is a Gryffindor or a Hufflepuff. 

Define their role in the story

When you’re defining your characters, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the role you want them to play in the story. What are they going to be doing to further the plot? This is especially true of characters beyond the protagonist. Will the character teach? Support? Antagonize? Block? Challenge? What is that character there to do? 

Describe what makes them different from the other characters

One trap that is easy to fall into when writing a story is that it can be hard to differentiate between characters, especially supporting characters. Take the time to explore what makes this particular character unique to the story.

Describe the most important things that have ever happened to the character

It can be good to look at the important events in a character’s life, especially those that lead the character to be who they are when the story starts. Try to look for at least one negative event and one positive event. Think about the moments they think about.

Describe what it would take to change them

Most novels involve a change of some sort, especially for the protagonist. Change is hard though, and even a character that changes in one way may not change in others. Take a moment to look at what it would take for this particular character change. What success or failure would permanently alter the way they do things?

Describe the way they dress

You can learn a lot about a character from the way they dress, especially the way they dress in certain situations. Do their work clothes and casual clothes differ dramatically? Do they dress to impress or do they barely notice what they are wearing most of the time? 

Make a list of where they have traveled

Some characters move around a great deal, while others find themselves more stuck in a single place. Make a list of the places your character has lived, traveled, vacationed, and otherwise been to.

Describe their relationship with money

Most people have an interesting and specific relationship with money. Is money a problem for your character or not a concern? Are they thrifty or do they overspend? Are they generous with their money or protective? Do they keep a budget? If so, what do they budget their money for?

Describe them from other people’s perspectives 

One interesting way to look at a character is from the perspective of the other people in their life. What do their parents, friends, or enemies think of them? What flaws and strengths do they see that perhaps the character does not?

Describe them in a sentence or two.

After all of your other work is done, look for a way to summarize the character in one or two sentences. What are they like and what are their goals?

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