33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters
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Are you ready to breathe life into your story?
Creating characters that are as real, tangible, and complex as the people around us is certainly easier said than done, but it's also necessary. If we fill our stories with caricatures and cardboard cutouts, they're sure to fall flat, right? Fortunately, crafting well-developed characters doesn't have to be as overwhelming and unfocused a process as you may think.
Well-developed characters are complex and nuanced, and while the process of creating them is just the same, you can easily skip the overwhelm and lack of focus by grabbing a notebook and working through today's breakdown. I'm here to share 33 actionable steps to creating strong characters, so let's dive in!
14 Things to Give Your Character
1. Give them a goal.
Your character's story goal serves as the basis of their journey, helping you plot your story with clarity and purpose.
2. Give them a motivation.
Knowing the reason why a character chooses to pursue their goal helps readers invest in their journey, making for a captivating read.
3. Give them purpose.
If a character doesn't in some way shape the plot or round out your protagonist's world, they don't add value to your story. Give them purpose, or let them go.
4. Give them a fear.
Fear shapes the human experience, creating doubts and insecurities that plague our actions, mindsets, and relationships. Add a little necessary realism to your story by giving your character a few fears as well.
5. Give them a flaw.
To be imperfect is to be human. Write a human story by giving your character personality flaws that play into their relationships, fears, disappointments, and discontent.
6. Give them a history.
Our pasts shape who we become. Give your character a rich history that affects both the person they are when your story begins and how they will handle the journey to come.
7. Give them a present story.
Don't drown your readers in backstory. Give your character a present-day quest or journey that will keep readers invested.
8. Give them a personality.
Don't let your character fall flat. Take time to craft for them a rich personality that will affect their words, actions, relationships, and worldview.
9. Give them interests.
It's exciting to meet new people who share our interests or to listen to someone talk fervently about their passion. Gift your readers this same experience by giving your character a few interests, too.
10. Give them a quirk.
Everyone has their strange qualities or habits, and often times, being a bit strange is just as exciting or memorable as being passionate. Help your character stand out from the crowd by giving them a quirk or two of their own.
11. Give them a name.
Showcase a time period, reveal a little about their ancestry, create a naming system for your fictional world... There are plenty of ways to give your character's name added purpose and power.
12. Give them a desire.
Desires are powerful motivators. They can push your character to great deeds just as quickly as they can tempt them to take action they'll regret.
13. Give them a love.
Love is joy, hope, and possibility. Defining who or what your character loves can reveal far more than simply what gets them out of bed in the morning.
14. Give them agency.
Power comes in all shapes and sizes. Give your character the ability to have or discover their own personal agency, so they can voice their truth and take action to change their world.
6 Things to Make Your Character
15. Make them complex.
Don't stop at simply creating a well-developed character. Actively work to bring your character's complexities to life on the page by putting them in as many diverse situations as possible.
16. Make them unique.
It's easy to fall into stereotypes and worn-out character tropes, but don't give in. Work instead to create characters unique to your story, ones that readers will instantly recognize as your own.
17. Make them relatable.
To relate is to create connection, to see others as just as human as you are. Making even the most evil of characters relatable in some small way can give your character some much needed humanity.
18. Make them fail.
Failure is a springboard to growth. Allowing your character to fail gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and develop as human beings, creating excellent internal conflict for your story.
19. Make them suffer.
Take your character from the highest heights to the lowest depths. By allowing your character to suffer (especially during the Dark Night of the Soul), you prove their mettle, endear readers to their cause, and define their growth as a result of their journey.
20. Make them sweat.
Don't hand your character success on a silver platter. Create page-turning conflict that will keep readers reading by making your character put in the blood, sweat, and tears needed to achieve their goal.
13 Things to Find For Your Character
21. Find their identity.
Understanding how your character defines themselves in life can help you better understand how they interact with and present themselves to the world. When defining your character's identity, consider elements such as their gender identity, race, sexuality, religion, ancestry, and interests.
22. Find their perspective.
Perspective is the lens through which we see the world. Explore your character's upbringing, religious and political beliefs, education, social influences, and relationships to better understand their personal perspective.
23. Find their type.
Who does your character gravitate toward when seeking friendships, romance, or guidance? Consider whether such relationships are truly healthy and fulfilling, as well as why your character gravitates toward such people in the first place.
24. Find their language.
Give your character a voice. Take the time to define their unique speech patterns, vocabulary, and accent by considering how, when, and where they were raised, as well their personality, experiences, and level of education.
25. Find their attitude.
Is your character optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic? Defining your character's everyday attitude can help you better understand how they see the world, as well as how the conflicts they face throughout their journey will affect them.
26. Find their happy place.
Where is your character happiest? When do they feel most loved and accepted? Showcasing your character at their best can make their worst moments all the more impactful.
27. Find their support.
28. Find their gut.
Your character's gut feelings can say a lot about who they are, while also add nail-biting tension to your story that foreshadows dangers to come. Take advantage!
29. Find their bane.
Everyone has their breaking point. Showing readers what it takes to push your character to this point will make your character's journey all the more momentous.
30. Find their refuge.
When all seems lost, a safe haven can keep hope alive for your character. Allow your character to find this refuge when they most need it, so they can receive the respite they need to recharge for your story's climax.
31. Find their redemption.
Your character will screw up. They will make decisions that harm themselves or others. They will fail. It's how they make things right that will define who they are at heart.
32. Find their glory.
Your character's journey will shape the person they become. If they've changed for the better, allow readers to see how their development was worth the fight.
33. Find their story.
Completing the first 32 activities in today's article should help you create strong, complex characters for your stories. But at the end of the day, characters can't be summed up by 32 individual statements. What you truly need to make your character shine is their story.
Who are they when your story begins? What shaped them into that person, and what launches them into the journey that will forever change their world? What mistakes will they make in their journey? What trials will they face, and how will these trials affect who they are?
What is their fight? What do they strive for? Who helps them out along the way, and how will they overcome? And, most importantly, who do they become because of it all?
That, writer, is your character's story. That is your character. Not 32 individual statements, but one incredible story of was and is and will become. That is what makes your character strong.
Are you ready to map out your character's story?
Get started today with The Pre-Write Project!
By completing the activities and guided questions in this 143-page digital workbook, you'll create a reference guide to use as you write and edit your story, helping you avoid the messiness of writing by the seat of your pants and instead embrace the power of drafting with a plan in place.