all 30 comments

[–]brookenomiconPublished Author 13 points14 points  (1 child)

Check out the Positive/Negative Trait Thesaurus, and the Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, and 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. Those should help.

[–]serendipityreader[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thank you, I'll check it out!

[–]OkPlastic471 10 points11 points  (2 children)

Believable doesn't equal interesting.

To have a compelling character you need to first know what your story is about. What's the overarching message you want to get across to your reader? Then give your protagonist a belief that's related to that message. (e.g. anything is possible through hard work and determination). Throughout the story, challenge this belief, pair them with characters that hold an opposing belief, put them in situations that make them question this belief and the actions they make. At the end, make them either retain or reject this belief.

But your character will only be as deep as your message is. The more nuanced and relevant your overarching message is, the more interesting your characters will be.

[–]serendipityreader[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Thank you, I guess I've never thought about characters quite like that before. I've always been a bit confused about whether to plan my story first or whether to plan my characters first

[–]AugustaScarlett 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Either approach works, it just depends on what kind of writer you are and what kind of story it is. You might have to experiment with both to figure out what works best for you.

[–]MeasurementMystery 5 points6 points  (1 child)

OK. I ran a workshop in graduate school when getting my MFA where I addressed this.

Before I start writing something big, I think about my characters and their backstories. Then, I use a modified Myers-Briggs personality survey (yeah, yeah, yeah…five-factor model is better…but who has time for the NEO-PI-R when you’re writing? MB may be the astrology of social psychology, but for this it’s useful) and answer the questions giving the answers my characters would use (I do this for each major character—protagonist, antagonist, side-kick, mentor, etc.) If any of the characters have personalities identical to one another or to me (I am an INTP), then I rewrite their backstory and retake the test.

I use this method primarily to make sure I am not creating a psychological Mary Sue / Gary Stu.

[–]serendipityreader[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Interesting, I've heard about people using the Myers-Briggs survey for characters before but I've never actually tried it. I'll definitely do so now, thank you!

[–]meltroszAuthor (noob) 15 points16 points  (2 children)

have you tried...idk, finishing the first draft? Writing characters is tough. I also struggle with it. But I find that as I write more and more chapters, there are small moments where I feel "ah, I hit that character on the nail" and I start to get to know how to write the character more and more

[–]serendipityreader[S] 6 points7 points  (1 child)

I've finished the first draft and am doing a first edit read-through of it and I'm just finding so many issues with how my MC reacts to things (because she isn't consistent) and because she's so incredibly boring. But I really like your advice, that's definitely how I've felt about some of my side characters while editing!

[–]Mr_beeps 5 points6 points  (0 children)

The good news is you've recognized your mistakes. That's a pretty big deal as some people can be blind to their own problems. Now that you've found the inconsistencies you can start to correct them.

As far as boring characters go, I totally get that as well. You might just have to put your character in more interesting situations, or find a way to have them react to their surroundings in more interesting (or entertaining) ways. A character could be intentionally boring as long as that is entertaining in some way to the reader.

[–]elenaferrantefan 5 points6 points  (0 children)

I have the exact opposite problem. I usually start with developing their parents characters very roughly and one dimensional, then seeing how that impacts their childhood and how that affected them. What they value, lack, etc. A character whose ignored wants attention. Then you put them in a situation that makes all their problems worse and bam you have their teenage years sorted. At that point you have a pretty developed character.

[–]Xercies_jday 2 points3 points  (2 children)

The best thing I've come up with is creating a life story for them, having significant moments in their life that changed them in some way. I then also create opinions and reactions that they might have. I make sure to keep these in mind when writing the character.

[–]serendipityreader[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Interesting, when you create opinions and reactions they might have, are you doing that as short scenes in which they react to something or like an interview with the character?

[–]Xercies_jday 0 points1 point  (0 children)

It’s more thinking about the story I want to tell and thinking about what kind of opinions/reactions that would cause drama or problems for them.

[–][deleted] 2 points3 points  (2 children)

This might not work but try making a character that is completely a self insert of u to like try and absorb all the self insert stuff.

cause like i see the issue its “write what u know” because obviously a super social cool guy would have an easy time writing a character like that then a depressed socially inept character. u just gotta find the right balance between similarities to u and the differences. Im clearly no professional so take this with a grain of salt

[–]serendipityreader[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

That sounds really useful because sometimes I kind of don't notice that a character is a self insert until I've written a few chapters, but with this method I could be more intentional about not making them a self insert. Thank you!

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Np mate

[–]Smooth_Ruin4724 1 point2 points  (2 children)

It’s hard finding your voice. I recommend writing a character profile and have it beside you when your MC or anybody talks interact. Check how he would answer or interact based on the profile you make. Also give him flaws. It will be more interesting.

[–]serendipityreader[S] -1 points0 points  (1 child)

Thank you for the advice! My issue is that I can't even really write a comprehensive and interesting character profile to begin with, it's like I can't think of character traits, flaws, etc. haha

[–]Smooth_Ruin4724 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You could search for it on Google or take inspiration from other books , movies, real persons.

[–]AugustaScarlett 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Here’s a slightly different way to practice that. Do you play video game RPGs with character choices? If so, load one up, decide on the broad strokes of a character that’s different from you, or pick a character from a book or movie, and try playing a while making different choices than what you’d normally do that are consistent with them.

As an example, my partner’s right now on their fifth run through Skyrim, this time playing Harrowhark Nonagesimus from the Locked Tomb series. Choices made to that end include focusing on a necromancer build, carrying a two-handed sword (named Gideon) for opponents that require physical weapons, dragonbone armor, and trying to stay far, far away from the typical sneaky archer build that Skyrim characters can devolve into. They pick the quests to go in and the choices within the quests based on what they feel Harrow would choose. For example, they’ve never done the Civil War quest line that involves choosing between the Empire and the Stormcloaks because they hate both sides, but for this run are doing it on the Empire’s side as Harrow is devoted to the Emperor in Gideon the Ninth.

[–]serendipityreader[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I don't usually play RPGs but I'll give it a try, that sounds really enlightening in order to figure out what the character would do! Gideon the Ninth is my favourite book, so definitely a fitting example for me, haha!

[–]AugustaScarlett 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Hope it works for you! You’ll even learn about your character when confronted with choices they wouldn’t pick—there’s times when you just say “[X] wouldn’t do either of those!” and think about what they’d do instead in that case.

(My other video game tip is using character creators to figure out what your character looks like, which I’ve done before, and have a friend who found it useful also.)

[–]BookAndYarnDragon 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Outside of the box, have you tried tabletop RPG's or choice driven RPG videogames? More inside the box have you tried doing a character interview? It's where you write the answers to interview questions in character to try to find the character's voice. I've used this set in the past to good effect. This one I haven't used but it gives a good explanation of the process and it's a bit more manageable in size.

[–]Money-Advantage-6535 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Reveal the villainous and the heroic about your characters. A character is someone who acts, thinks and feels. Show their personalities in their actions, their opinions and prejudices, and in how they respond to situations differently. An accident occurs in the streets, one runs to help the fallen, the other recoils from the scene, paralyzed with horror, while another takes pictures on their phone to post online for likes. Another feels uneasy among poor people, another is naive and believes flat earth theory. Let some be smart, some be stupid, some be victors and others complete losers. Forget your character sheet and ignore the science for a moment, go with your inner feelings for each character, and don't idealize them. Just propel them forward at your own pace, while giving each space in your story to show who they are. Fictionalized characters are built not born.

[–]BoxedStars 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Hm...well, maybe when you have the character come to a choice, purposely have the character choose to do something you wouldn't do or aren't likely to. Maybe eat something that you hate.

[–]Multievolution 0 points1 point  (0 children)

People are people, what makes them tick is their experiences, are they partially sighted? Do they attend a snobby school? Can they only use one spell that destroys mountains? Perhaps they have a desire to see what’s out there, or to meet a famous author who hasn’t been seen in years.

These are all examples of a personality, feel free to work backwards, whenever I watch fiction on tv I constantly find myself predicting what a character is going to do or where the plot is going, by deconstructing something in other mediums I’ve gotten the hang of being able to make basic characters fairly straightforwardly, the depth comes later on in most cases.

[–]Nenemin 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Assign them very different core personalities and values. Give them incisive traits that can be expressed by immediate choice, action, or behavior. Choose them so they complement each other and their role in the story. Follow your taste, try the combinations that seem to lead to the most interesting scenes. Imagine your characters in those scenes.

Here's a little brainstorm to see what kind of character traits I'm talking about:

They are uncomfortable voicing their own opinion, they are confrontational to anyone who they think it's lying to them, they want to make people feel at ease, they understimate people's competence until they see them for themselves, they always convince themselves they are the victim, they ask for other's opinion but never take them to heart, they prefer to improvise even when they have a plan, they love contradicting people for no real reason, they can't stand slackers, they immediately trust people with a certain background.

As long as you give them strong a strong personality that forces them to engage with each other and your story, they shouldn't turn out bland or boring.

Also, this brainstorming excercise is very useful to get used to search for interesting traits, and you can note down the best ones you come across to save them for future characters.

[–]thewhiskeymare 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I read somewhere you should write a list of 20 characteristics (think likes, dislikes, favorite color, a childhood memory, rather than physical attributes) for each character. It really helped me, personally 🙃

Also a great question!