Characters – Basic Characteristics

This post was originally not going to be a post at all. I was going to dive straight in and start discussing some of the problems that I, as a relatively inexperienced writer, have faced when creating and developing my characters and methods that I have used to overcome these problems. However, the more that I wrote, the more that I realised I needed to go back to something far more basic than this: the actual creation of the character themselves.

Designing a character is not easy. They do not come together in a short while, just because the writer bids them to do so. Patience is key. We will think about some of the more complicated elements of character design later in the month, but for now let’s focus on the simpler parts of character creation and design that authors should remember to include in their writing.

  • You may have an idea of what you want your character to look like. It may reflect the personality you want them to have, for example a snobby character will probably work hard on making themselves look perfect. Your readers won’t know what that character looks like unless you tell them, though, so give them a good, clear picture of the character’s appearance.
  • Similar to appearance, a character’s style may reveal a lot about their personality. A character who wears long, heavy coats and hats that obscure their face probably doesn’t want people to know who they are. A character who goes out in mismatched clothes or without make-up will probably believe there are more important things than material objects.
  • General characteristics. The real world is a mixture of countless different personality types. We will think more about individuals later in the month, but in the beginning it is handy to consider general characteristics such as whether a character is naturally positive or cynical, happy or unhappy, kind or unkind, etc. This will allow you to begin with a general overview of your character, which you can demonstrate to the reader through their speech and actions.
  • Basic background and desires. Why does your character do what they do? Why do they say what they say? What is it that motivates them? In the beginning, you won’t know the details of these things – but in order to start building your character, you will need a general idea of their drives and motivations. Do they believe they are doing what is right? Are they seeking revenge?
  • Relationships with other characters. Unless all of your characters are going to meet at the beginning with absolutely no ties to one another, some of them will have relationships before your writing begins. Make it clear to the reader who knows who, and how.

It can be all too easy to miss a key basic element of your character because you, as the writer, know it already. These things – for me, in particular, the appearance of the character – can seem so simple or obvious that we can dive into more complex parts of them without giving the reader the basic information they need to picture the character.

This month’s theme is CHARACTERS. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of characters, then please post a link in the comments or email me on with the subject: Characters.


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