Creating believable characters starts with giving them distinct personalities, appearances and backgrounds. Consider the following aspects:
Create a character profile for each of your main characters. This can serve as a reference as you write your story. For example, let’s look at a table of character profiles for the main characters of a hypothetical crime novel:
|Observant, patient, slightly cynical
|Partnered with Detective Lewis in the police force, estranged from his family
|Grew up in a rough neighbourhood, witnessed a crime at a young age
|Quick-tempered, intelligent, compassionate
|Partnered with Detective Smith, close to her younger brother
|Raised in a middle-class family, both parents died in an accident
|Ambitious, curious, persistent
|Friend of Emily Lewis, has a complicated relationship with her editor
|Single child, left a small town to pursue her journalism career
For each character, we’ve outlined their age, occupation, key personality traits, their relationships with other characters and their background.
Show, don’t tell. Rather than directly stating your character’s traits, reveal them through dialogue, action, description and inner thought.
What a character says and how they say it can reveal a lot about their personality.
This dialogue suggests that Tom is a person of his word and cares about his responsibilities, indicating his reliability and kindness.
How a character behaves in different situations can show their traits and values.
Tom’s actions here show his dedication and resilience, highlighting his commitment to his promise.
How other characters perceive and react to your character can provide insight into their traits.
The description of Tom’s worn clothing suggests he is not overly concerned with appearances and might prefer practicality. It may also imply that he’s not particularly affluent.
Sharing a character’s thoughts and feelings can give readers a deeper understanding of their personality and motivations.
Tom’s thoughts here provide further insight into his kind-heartedness and his ability to find joy or humour in challenging situations.
Characters change over the course of a story. This change could be in their personality, beliefs or relationships, and it’s often a result of the experiences they go through in the narrative. This evolution makes characters more realistic and relatable, as it mirrors how people change and grow in real life.
There are two main types of character development:
As you plan your character’s development, consider what type of change they will undergo and what experiences will trigger this change. Remember, the change should be believable and consistent with the character’s experiences and the overall narrative.
A character’s motivations and conflicts should be closely tied to the plot. They should influence the character’s decisions, shape the events of the story and drive the narrative forward. For example, a character’s motivation to find a lost treasure might lead them on an adventure (the plot), while the conflicts they encounter along the way (like dangerous traps or rival treasure hunters) create obstacles they must overcome.
As you develop your characters, make sure their motivations and conflicts are clear and compelling. Think about how these elements will influence the character’s actions, shape the plot and engage the reader’s interest. Remember, well-developed motivations and conflicts can make your characters feel more realistic and your story more engaging.