How to Develop a Character – Everything You Need to Know

Learn what it takes to create fully developed characters that will engage readers and help your story unfold in the most interesting way possible.
Table of Contents

Do you ever find yourself getting lost in a book, or feeling like you know the character as if they were a real person? That's because the writer has done an excellent job of developing their character.

In this article, we will discuss the essentials of creating a well developed character that is believable and engaging for your story.

[.article-notion]Check out the ultimate way of building well developed characters with StoryFlint's Ultimate Character Builder Notion Template[.article-notion]

Characterization

One of the major aspects of character development is characterization. Characterization is the process by which a writer reveals both the physical characteristics and personality of a character.

Character Descriptions

Describing fictional characters can be difficult, but it is important to give your reader a clear image of who the character is.

One way to do this is by providing physical descriptions. This can include things like hair color, eye color, height, weight, and other physical features. It is also important to describe how the character dresses and carries themselves.

[.article-cta]Read this article about character descriptions.[.article-cta]

Mannerisms

Mannerisms are the small details that make your character unique and help them stand out from other characters. These character details can be body language, dialogue, gestures, or habits.

For example, let's say you're writing about a woman who is always fidgeting with her hands when she's nervous. This is a small detail, but it helps portray what they're feeling at the time without explicitly telling the audience.

Think about the little things that make your character special and use them to add depth to your story. Creating character mannerisms can be a fun way to add small details that add up to a bigger picture.

[.article-cta]Read this article about character mannerisms.[.article-cta]

Describe their hands

This might sound odd when you first think about it. How does a character's hands tell them who they are?

There are many aspects you can tell about a person by looking or describing their hands. Are they smooth or calloused? Are the nails clean or dirty? Are the short and stubby or long and gangly? Do they fidget with their hands a lot or are they calm and still?

Describing your character's hands can be a gateway for your audience to understand a lot of information and backstory about them without explicitly stating it.

[.article-cta]Read this article on how to describe a character's hands.[.article-cta]

Personality

Positive and Negative Traits

Believable characters have both positive traits and negative traits. Make sure your characters have both in order to make them relatable.

For example, let's say you're writing about a detective who is trying to solve a case. Some of their positive traits might be that they're smart, resourceful, and determined. However, they might also have some negative traits such as being obsessive, impatient, and rude.

[.article-cta]Read this article on writing character flaws.[.article-cta]

Enneagrams

The Enneagram is a personality system that is composed of nine different types. Each type has its own set of values, motivations, and fears.

If you're having trouble developing your character's personality, the Enneagram can be a helpful tool. You can use it to better understand your character and what drives them.

Goals and Motivations

Every character needs a goal and a motivation; this is what drives the story forward and keeps the character interesting.

A goal is something that your character is trying to achieve and motivation is what drives them to achieve it.

For example, let's say you're writing about a woman who is trying to get over her ex-boyfriend. Her goal might be to find someone new to date and her motivation might be that she wants to prove to herself that she can be happy without him.

Think about what your character wants and why they want it; this will help you develop their story arc and keep them moving towards a specific goal.

[.article-cta]Read this article on how to write believable character motivations.[.article-cta]

Values

Values are the things that are important to your character and influence their decisions and actions. Strong characters have strong values that are the moral compass in their journey in life.

For example, let's say you're writing about a woman who is trying to decide whether or not to have a child. Some of her values might be family, happiness, and independence.

Having well-defined values for your character can make their personalities empathetic to the audience and make a fictional character realistic. Values can also be a major source of drama for your story when the character is forced to act in contradiction to them.

Backstory

Every character has a backstory, even if it's never explicitly mentioned in the story.

A backstory is the events and experiences that have happened to your character in the past and have shaped them into the person they are today.

Compelling characters have a backstory with a "ghost" that helps drive their decisions in the story. A ghost is a traumatic event that has warped the perception of the world and has made them develop a weakness that they have to overcome.

Think about what events in your character's life have influenced their current situation and how they react to things that happen to them going forward.

[.article-cta]Read this article on how to write a flashback.[.article-cta]

Voice

Voice is the way your character speaks and how they express themselves. It's what makes them unique and helps to distinguish them from other characters in your story.

Your character's voice should be consistent throughout the story and should reflect their personality.

For example, let's say you're writing about a woman who is trying to get over her ex-boyfriend. Her voice might be sarcastic, bitter, and angry.

[.article-cta]Read this article on how to write dialogue.[.article-cta]

Empathy

One of the most important things to consider when developing your character is whether you want them to be likable or unlikable. Interesting characters need to be either-or. There's nothing more boring than a character that is neither likable nor unlikable.

This is entirely up to you and there are no right or wrong answers. It's important to think about why you want your character to be likable or unlikable and what effect this will have on your story.

[.article-cta]If you're having trouble with this, read this article on how to write a likable character.[.article-cta]

Character Types

Each character plays a role a story. But every character can't have the same role.

There are different character types that serve different purposes in a story.

Static vs. Dynamic Characters

One of the first things you need to decide about your character is whether they are static or dynamic.

A static character is one who does not change throughout the story, while a dynamic character undergoes some sort of change. This change can be referred to as a character arc.

For example, Tony Stark in the movie Iron Man is a dynamic character because he starts out as a selfish playboy and changes into a selfless hero who helps others by the end of the story. Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, is a static character because he starts out as a selfless hero and stays that way throughout the whole movie but he influences the people around him.

It's important to decide this early on in your character creation process because it will affect the arc of your story. If your character is static, their role in the story will be more about staying the same in spite of the changes happening around them. If your character is dynamic, their role will be more about change and growth.

[.article-cta]Read these tips on creating dynamic characters.[.article-cta]

Character Archetypes

One of the easiest ways to develop an engaging character is to use a character archetype.

An archetype is a type of character that is instantly recognizable and relatable.

For example, some common archetypes are the hero, the damsel in distress, the villain, and the sidekick. Think about which archetype your character fits into and use this as a starting point for their development.

You don't have to use a character archetype to develop character, but they are good jumping-off points.

[.article-cta]Read this article on character archetypes to create great characters.[.article-cta]

Character Roles

Main Character vs. Secondary Characters

Main characters, also called protagonists, are the central figures around which the story revolves. They are typically the ones who drive the plot forward and face the challenges head-on. The main character is also whose character arc is tied directly to the main theme of the story.

Secondary characters are just as important as they provide support for the main character and help move the story along.

In Harry Potter, Ron Weasley is a secondary character; he supports Harry throughout his journey and helps him defeat Voldemort.

Antagonists and Villains

The antagonist is the character who is in opposition to the main character. They can be either a person, an event, or even an emotion.

For example, in The Hunger Games, Katniss's main opponent is the Capitol. In Harry Potter, it's Voldemort.

An important thing to remember about antagonists is that they don't have to be villains. Just because a character is opposing the protagonist doesn't mean they're evil.

However, if your story does have a villain, then they will typically be the one driving the conflict and causing all the problems for the main character.

In The Hunger Games, President Snow is the villain and he's responsible for all of the conflict and challenges that Katniss faces.

[.article-cta]Learn more about what it takes to build an antagonist[.article-cta]

Anti-heroes

The textbook definition of an anti-hero in a story is a lead character who lacks the qualities of traditional heroes, such as courage and morality. To make up for this they might be exceptionally skilled in a certain area or have an interesting flaw that makes them more complex characters.

But an anti-hero is still fundamentally good at heart and not a bad guy. They're just willing to do whatever it takes to save their loved ones instead of playing by the rules all the time. So while you shouldn't root for your hero to suffer because he's doing bad things, you also shouldn't be against them because their heart is always in the right place.

Character Profile

Now that you've built these aspects of your character, it's time to put it all together in a character profile.

A character profile is a helpful tool that will allow you to keep track of all the important details about your character. It's important to have one for each character in order to stay consistent within your story. Keep organized and refer back to your profile sheets whenever you are wondering what the character should do next.

[.article-cta]Learn what it takes to build a character profile.[.article-cta]

[.article-free-notion]Check out StoryFlint's free Character Profile template available as a Notion worksheet or PDF.[.article-free-notion]

Character Development Resources

[.article-cta]Check out this article on awesome tools and resources to help with your character development.[.article-cta]

Conclusion

Creating believable, relatable, and interesting characters is essential to writing a great story. By taking the time to build a character from the ground up, you will be able to create a three-dimensional person that your readers can't help but fall in love with (or hate).

Kevin from StoryFlint

Hello friends! I'm Kevin, the creator of StoryFlint.

I love the science of storytelling and learning how to create compelling characters, plots, themes and worlds.

I'm here to help you organize and visualize your story to make it the best it can be!

More about me

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