Writing Tips—How to Develop Characters (Tips from the Crew Part One)

The perfect character should not be very perfect at all, because when we get down to it, no one wants to read a story filled with Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus. So how do we do it? How do we create the (near) perfect character?

The following are the first five general tips offered by the crew. Another set of tips to follow soon.

1) Have a Rough Outline of Your Character

Before writing, it is always good to create a small biography of your character. Include the most important facts, such as their appearance, personality and general history. This would then later help you out immensely as you progress with your story, because it will help keep the small details of the portrayal of your character accurate. However, don't spend too long writing the biography, just jot down the most basic details and let the rest come to you as you write.

2) Have a Balance

I personally don't believe in having a total villain or a total hero. The perfect character should be created with a balance of good and bad characteristics, a mix of real life personalities that makes them three dimensional, believable and relatable to the readers. For this, I find it helpful to base the personality of the character on people I know. For example, I would ask myself: What do I find admirable in my best friend? What irritates me? The answers to these questions will enable me to create a list of personality traits that are real, as well as to build up a flawed yet near perfect character.

3) Example Character 'Bases'

Start out with yourself, as the Protagonit(s), one aspect amplified slightly (like shyness). It's what most of us do for role plays, but you can get good book characters that way, who will then take on lives of their own.

For an Antagonist you can use someone who looks at the world differently from the Protagonist, like a parent. Now, if you are going more towards having a villan, then you'll want to give the Antagonist a personality trait that's mean/evil or simply annoying. Then...

4) Let them develop in your head

The more you write scenes with your characters in it, the more you discover who they are. Your story and the world they belong to is going to shape the characters that belong to it. You still want that sinppit of a bio (like farm girl from the midwest USA), but as you write, that bio will become more in depth, and you'll learn who they had a crush on in 5th grade and how that affects their reactions to that person five years later. And don't worry if that scene doesn't end up in your story. It wasn't a waste of time. In fact consider it quality time with your characters. They like getting quality time.

5) Use The People around You

A great way of creating what a character looks like is to study the people around you. You can take his curly hair and her blue eyes. But you can use the people around you to make your charcter sound: His deep baritone or her soft murmur. Many things can be inspired from this—behaviour, scents, sounds, etc ....