Build Characters In A Narrative

Get into characters to write characters.

Many creative writing discussions about building characters revolve around the difference between showing and telling. Telling your readers about your characters is simply describing them (physically, mentally or emotionally) in the voice of the narrator. But showing your readers your characters through what other characters say, think about, and see when they look at your character is like letting your readers meet your characters one on one. Of course, this sort of writing also means that you need to meet your characters yourself, and this meeting will help you to build stronger characters that people can relate to.


Meeting Your Characters

1. Choose three traits that define each of your characters. These could be simple adjectives (stubborn, egotistical, honorable), phrases (good in a pinch, always cracks under pressure, helpful to a fault), or a mix of the two. Choose both good and bad traits for your characters to make them more human and give them room to grow and improve.

2. Establish what a day in the life of each of your characters would be like from the time they get out of bed to the time they go to sleep at night.

3. Figure out what your characters want. Clear motivation will allow you to build your narrative around their actions.

4. Imagine what each of your characters’ lives were like before their appearance in your story and what they will be like after your story ends. This will help you to figure out how your characters grow over the course of the story that you tell.

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Building the Characters

5. Choose one character that you will build over the course of a chapter/scene/vignette.

6. Decide on what you want to reveal about your character in the scene/chapter/vignette that you are working on.

7. Establish an event that will reveal this trait in your character. This could be an event that is directly related to your character (a graduation, a job interview, a performance) or that is completely unrelated to them (a city parade, a rainstorm, a lecture).

8. Pick a concrete setting for this revelatory event.

9. Select a narrative means of demonstrating the trait that you have chosen to show your reader. These narrative means are the character’s own dialogue, the character’s own actions or another character’s dialogue about the character that you want to build.

10. Write the scene/chapter/vignette that you have planned out.

11. Repeat the above steps for every other scene/chapter/vignette that you want to use to build your characters.