Characters: A Guide

Found yourself at odds with that character creator in your head?

If you get it right, people will pay to see your characters in anything.

Fandom Espresso has you covered with this fantastic guide to creating memorable characters.

This post was last updated on April 5th, 2018.

Characters are finicky creatures. Let them loose and they’ll do what they want when they want.

These tips should help you jumpstart your project and really make those characters pop.

Character Bios

This is the most vital component in creating a new character. Writers should develop a biography – the length of which determined by the story and by them.

This is where a character is born. Writers can go as deep as they want with it and not feel pressured to include every last detail in the story itself.

Physical aspects are only the beginning. The intent of a bio is to determine who a character is and how they will react in certain situations.

Depending on the length and depth of your story, you’ll want to create your own profile sheet.

Basic Characteristics

Your character’s basic characteristics are just what you think they are. Name, age, nationality, occupation, and income should be included here. It’s the bare bones of who your character is.

What are their talents? Do they have siblings? If so, do they hate their sisters?

Physical Characteristics

Let’s go just a bit deeper. Physical characteristics can include height, weight, and race. Get creative and go even further with defining speech patterns and potential disabilities.

Do they have specific mannerisms? What are their hobbies?

Does your character have style preferences? Do they even care about style?

Personality and Mental Attributes

Your character’s personality is one of the most important areas to consider. This is what will truly make your character unique and bring them to life.

Defining this section well for your full cast will make them stand out from each other as well.

Included in this section are subjects like educational background, intellectual strength,  and mental illness. Use this opportunity to flesh out your character further by explaining what might embarrass them or detail how self-confident they are.

Emotional Characteristics

What are your character’s strengths and weaknesses? Are they introverted or extroverted?

How does your character deal with anger? How do they deal with sadness? What about loss? What about happiness?

Is your character polite? Are they rude? What motivates them (in general, and toward their goal)?

Spiritual Characteristics

Defining the spiritual aspects of a character can be tricky. If they reside in our world, do they believe in a god? If so, which god do they follow?

If they hail from a fantasy or sci-fi world, are there gods to believe in? Are they, themselves, a deity?

Are they atheist? Do they focus on one religion or a mixture of many?

How much does their belief (or disbelief) impact the narrative?

Story Involvement

Describe your character’s role. Are they the hero or the villain? What is their perspective? Is your character an evil entity, but still the protagonist of the story?

How does your character interact with the rest of the cast? Specify in detail how they react to their mother in comparison to their best friend or their worst enemy.

Character Arc

Does your character arc? They better.

Explain where they start out in the ordinary world. Give examples of what major changes they may go through during the events of the story.

Analyze how they changed and determine who they are by the end of the narrative.

Outlining the Journey

Character – Joseph Cambell’s Hero’s Journey (from here)

If you’ve found your way to this site, you’re probably familiar with Joseph Cambell’s Hero’s Journey, but it’s still worth talking about. The “journey” is a story pattern found during studies of old world folklore and story.

It taps into the human psyche and still holds up as the best method of storytelling. The Hero’s Journey does just what the title implies: it outlines all the trials your character will go through to reach their goal.

Some find it difficult to understand the full diagram. Most writers simplify the cycle down to three terms: departure (the hero leaves the ordinary world), initiation (the hero learns to navigate the adventure world), and return (the hero returns to the ordinary world).

Shows such as Star Trek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were known to follow the journey religiously and consistently.

How does your character answer the call? How do they earn the freedom to live?

Flaws Build Character

Selling an idea for a book or script will be challenging if your logline doesn’t include a flawed protagonist. No one is interested in the perfect figure. Perfection is un-relatable.  If you’ve created a character without flaw, you’ve developed a boring story.

The chosen flaw must be integral to the character and their journey. It can’t just be anything. A flaw should inhibit the character from reaching their goal. They have to overcome it by the end of the story.

Recognize the Right Flaw

Flaws should deepen the audience’s understanding of your character. Whether you explain it through plot or backstory is up to you.

A good place to begin is analyzing the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, envy, greed, sloth, wrath, and pride. After building your character bio, you should have a better idea of who your character is. Match them to the most appropriate sin.

If you’d like something a bit more complicated, look deeper into the bio. Is your character self-deprecating? Are they always the martyr? Perhaps they’re just impatient.

Let’s get as deep as we can here. Does your character babble when they’re nervous? Will they do anything to please someone? Do they tend to be perverse?

Still don’t know where to start? Here are over 100 ideas for character flaws.

Add a Little Quirk

Quirks may just be the biggest factor in creating a memorable character. They come in handy during humorous moments and ensure your character has, well, character.

They should not define your character. Instead, quirks should enhance them. A character’s quirk can be just about anything from hobbies to fears. It should be a concept that your character meets or deals with frequently.

How Do You Go About Creating Memorable Characters?

Do you employ any of the tactics listed here? Are there other methods you use for creating memorable characters? Share with us below.

If you’re a screenwriter working on character, here are some great contests to look into. Also, if you don’t live in L.A., whether you write scripts, prose, or poetry, you may want to check this guide out.



Author: Christopher Fain

Author, blogger, content writer, and screenwriter based in Orlando, Florida. He is earning a B.F.A. in Creative Writing at Full Sail University. Twitter: @chrisjf93

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