Developing characters for any piece of fiction is both challenging and fun. Where else do you get to build a person from the ground up? As a writer, you can create these characters to be likable or not. They can be handsome/beautiful, rich/poor – whatever WORKS for your story.
Some of us are lucky enough to wake up one morning and have the character arrive fully formed and ready for action. But more often than not, a character shows up, and they’re kind of shadowy. It takes you to build on that idea and create a three-dimensional character to tell your story.
There are three main characters in every story – the PROTAGONIST, the ANTAGONIST, and the side-kick or love interest. These characters tell the story. The Protagonist carries the problem/conflict, and it is their journey to work through the problem that is the backbone of your storyline.
So, here are a few ideas to help you visualize and build your Protagonist.
Past, Present & Future
Jot down a few ideas about the following:
- Childhood – how did they grow up? Were they rich or poor? Do they have a big family, or is the character an orphan?
- Physical appearance – write down their hair and eye color; describe their clothes; their weight, and height.
- Mental state – is your character in a positive frame of mind, or are they facing challenges? Are they confident or shy? Are they brave or careful?
- What is their goal or function in the story.
A pretty fun way…
Create an online profile for your character. It can be for Facebook, Goodreads, or even Tinder. What kind of information would they share? What would they make public, and what would they keep private? Would they lie or tell the truth?
Events from their childhood will have a significant impact on who they are. Take a moment to write one or both of these scenes.
- Write a traumatic event from their childhood.
- Write a happy event from their childhood.
Image Search – Pinterest or other images website
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Find an image of a person who reminds you of this character. They don’t have to be a look-alike. It could be a person with a similar attitude. Stick the picture above your desk and use it to think about the character as you write.
What does your new character have to say for themselves? Make them talk as quickly as possible. We reveal a lot about ourselves when we speak. Describe their body language and thoughts while they talk.
The Last Word
These are only suggestions to get your going. Once you’ve spent enough time with your character and you begin to figure out who they are, you may want to take the time to write an outline of their biography OR use one of the many Character Questionnaires you can find online to learn more.
Remember, when the words are flowing, and the story is growing, don’t stop. Establish who the character is as quickly as possible. Write it fast. Fix it later.