How creative writers create characters for their stories

This is a picture of a hand writing in a notebook.

If you’re looking for a hobby during quarantine, creative writing is as good as any! For that, you’ll need characters. A big part of the problem is knowing what questions to ask. If you run through parts one through four, you’ll have a really solid grasp of your character.

It’s easiest for me to do it in this order. You can try it in this order, but don’t worry about it if you get stuck on something. Come back to it later, if you need to.

Part 1: Motivations

If you know your character’s motivations, you know your character.

  • What do they want to accomplish before they die?
  • What do they want to accomplish within the year?
  • Before the day is over?

Part 2: Backstory

  • What parts of their past nudge them along towards their goals?
  • What holds them back?
  • Who is important to them and when did they meet and how did they become close, or how did they become enemies?
  • Were they ever involved in a religion? Are they still practicing it?
  • Do they have any kind of love life? Any exes? Old crushes?

Part 3: Personality

  • How do they come off around strangers?
  • What are they like around friends?
  • Around those they’re closest with?
  • When they’re alone?
  • How do they act when they’re angry?
  • When they’re pleased?
  • What kind of sense of humor do they have?

Part 4: Physical presence

  • What is their skin like? Any freckles or moles or acne? Vitiligo?
  • What color is their hair? Did they dye it? Is it curly, wavy, or straight? How long is it?
  • How tall and wide are they? Do they have a cute tummy and big muscles?
  • What do they usually wear? What colors? Do they dress for comfort, utility, the aesthetic, or some combination of the three?
  • Do they have a sword?
  • How do they hold themselves? Do they usually seem shy? Relaxed? Bored? Proud?
  • Do they talk about something constantly? Something like their religion / their sexuality / their significant other / their special interest?

After you’ve answered all those questions, all you have to do is give them a name!

You don’t have to answer all of the questions, especially when you’re initially creating the character. This is mostly as a way to get started and think about things that might not have occurred to you initially. For example, a first run at the questions might look like this.

  1. My character wants to regain their missing memories. They want to keep their shop in business this year. They want to finish their errands in town today.
  2. Their friend [friend name] helps him with his shop and might know something about the year of memories he’s missing, although he never wants to talk about it. Business has been a little slow lately. [Friend name] took them in just after they’d lost a year’s worth of memories and found themselves near his shop.
  3. They seem pretty cute to most strangers, except any with a guilty conscience. They’re generally cheerful and unfortunately make a lot of bad puns around their friends. Alone, they’re introspective and enjoy keeping busy. When they’re angry, they go quiet and glare and might plot revenge. When they’re pleased, they’re unabashedly enthusiastic.
  4. They have bronze skin and straight black hair just past their chin. Their hair has two braids coming from the front and tied in the back like a ponytail. They’re 5’9” and have a lean body with broad shoulders. They like earth toned clothes and wear whatever is a step above sweatpants.

Comment if you have an idea of a name for them!

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