How to Write Better Characters

Do want to greatly improve your writing by two, or three folds?

Today, let’s talk about how we can greatly improve our writings by focusing on one important element – the characters.

selective focus photo of multicolored wooden mannequin
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Our main characters in our story can make or break it. Without a compelling character, our story with not relate to readers, will not garner empathy, and most of all, with not have any impact.

So, how can we write better characters? We have to flesh them out. We need to give more thought into who they are, even to the point of adding in details that may probably not appear in your story at all.

Here are Five tips we can use to better build our characters.

1. Create a character sheet. A character sheet serves as a guide for the writer, but for your character, it is their life. Want to know how your character will react to being given a banana? Check their sheet. Will he happily accept it (loves fruits), will he reject it (hates yellow things), or avoid it like the plague (allergic to bananas).

2. Give good traits and bad. No human is perfect. There is always something that he will be bad at, as there is something that he is good at. Take the greatest fictional detective we know – Sherlock Holmes. He has great deductive and reasoning skills, yet he has terrible people skills. He also has a bit of an addiction to stimulants. So when creating a new character, or even maybe reviewing an old one, take a look at their strengths, and put in a few random weaknesses. Weaknesses may be physical, or emotional. It may be a lack of skill or ability, or perhaps a way of thinking.

blue and brown yin yang illustration
Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com

3. Give your character an obsession. Depending on how you pen it, this may make your character either interesting or scary. Well, unless that is the path you’re going for… I guess that could work…

Anyway, an obsession can be something that nags at your character’s head most of the time. It can be an obsession to perfection, to victory, to catching the perpetrator… What about an obsession for bananas? It would probably make for an interesting read if your character has an obsession out of nowhere. Can you imagine what my main character’s actions would be if he went to a party without a banana? Would he be able to focus on the event? Would he be actively searching for a banana in the buffet table?

bunch of yellow banana
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

4. Give your character a blind spot. There are things that we don’t know, but others do. What if your character believes that he is being kind and considerate of the people around him, but is in fact tactless and too forward. This difference in perception can further complicate events, and may even lead to interesting story developments.

5. Backstory is important, but keep it in the back. Our past defines us. It’s why psychologists say that whatever is going on with our heads today can be traced back to our childhoods. Your character should feel like he has been alive prior to the start of your story. He should not feel like a person who was snapped into existence as soon as the story began. He should have memories, he should have had encountered something traumatizing in his childhood that defines your character as he is in your present story. Why would your character hate dogs? Perhaps because when he was a child, he was chased by a rabid dog? Or perhaps his neighbor’s dog, Spike, bit him one time when he tried to go over the fence to fetch a toy?

However, when we talk about backstory, they should remain in the back of your main story. Do not give your reader and entire chapter of flashbacks. Sprinkle the backstory here and there. Perhaps let your character casually drop the information. It could be in a conversation or through a train of thought that your character had when they encountered an event that led them to recall the said prior event.

 

To sum it all up, it is very important for us as writers to craft characters with the help of character sheets. I haven’t used character sheets before, and have found myself looking at rather generic characters, people who does not seem to have any individuality. As such, they don’t seem to be all that memorable or relatable at all.

I hope that I have somehow helped you in giving your characters life. With a well-crafted character, writing situations and events for your plot will be much, much easier, most specially if you already know who your main character is, and how he tends to act. And in case you probably forgot, a handy character sheet will be there to help make things more consistent.

If you found my content useful or interesting, please subscribe to my blog, or even share my works to others. It would be a great help in growing my blog, and I would really appreciate it. If you wish to support me in anyway, please consider checking out my Ko-Fi page, or my Patreon Page.. Speaking of my Patreon page, I am working on publishing one short story per month for patrons. Please take a look if that is in your interest.

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Anyway, that is all for now, happy writing.

Author: jomz

Web Designer and Developer, Graphic Artist. Writer.

4 thoughts on “How to Write Better Characters”

  1. Hi Jomz! I’ve been checking out some of your posts, and I think you would be a good fit for a monthly author blog hop that I host. It’s called #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, and about 30 of us hop around to each other’s posts the third Wednesday of every month, and we comment, and we try to share each other’s posts around social media. It seems like you’re already blogging learning and resources for authors, which is what the theme of the hop is. Anyway, whether you’re interested or not, I look forward to seeing you around the blogosphere! Here’s the link to the main hop page, or you can click on my avatar, and the hop is listed on my menu on the left-hand side: https://raimeygallant.com/2017/03/22/authortoolboxbloghop/

    1. Thank you very much. I think this is a great idea and is right up my alley for topics. I went ahead and signed up. 😀

      Hopefully I will be able to contribute something, specially for the amateur and starting writers.

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