“How do I make my characters more realistic?”

Character development is integral in the fluency and composition of every story, and hopefully these 10 character development questions will aid you in your quest in creating multi-dimensional personalities.

1. “What are my character’s biggest desires?”

Asking yourself what your character wants to achieve in the grand scheme of your story is important for a number of reasons. First, it identifies your character’s goals, hopes, and deepest wishes. It also defines their actions and influences how they will behave in your story.

2. “What are your character’s biggest flaws?”

Every character is flawed–it’s what makes them interesting, textured and three-dimensional. Bestowing your character with flaws allows them to be portrayed as human, gives them a sense of relatability, and ultimately makes your story more layered. Flaws often contribute to obstacles in a story, and allowing characters to overcome and recognize these flaws is an important aspect in every story.

3. “What are your character’s biggest fears?”

Fear is another characteristic that is inherently human. As with flaws, every character must also have fears. Asking yourself what your character’s greatest fears are allows you to envision obstacles, the climax, and the conflict of a story.

4. “What is the ‘purpose’ of this character’s place in the narrative, their significance?”

It’s useful to categorize the prominence of your characters as you’d categorize chess pieces in a game. Some are purely there as plot devices, some are omnipresent and hold more power than others, and some are evasive and mysterious. Mapping out the importance of a character is helpful to uncover the plot and ultimate moral of a story.

5. “How does my character’s upbringing influence who they are in their present timeline?”

Giving characters a past and background shapes their actions and personality. In many instances, envisioning a past for characters makes the plot more detailed. Revealing characters’ past over time is a strategy that is especially effective in building momentum and emotion in a story.

6. “What is my character’s relationship with other characters?”

Relationships between characters’ family and close friends are especially important in shaping a story. Relationships with integral role models such as parents and childhood friends can influence main characters’ outlook and even become a central conflict.

7. “How does race, gender, LGBTQ+/minority status affect the character’s composition?”

These characteristics are especially important in giving a story vibrance. Your character’s race, sexuality, gender identity, and socioeconomic status can influence their privilege, lifestyle, culture, and more.

8. “What motivates my character to achieve their specific goals?”

Ask yourself what your character’s ultimate goals are. What does your character strive for and yearn for? How does this conflict with the goals of other characters and the way this specific character acts throughout your story?

9. “What are your character’s interests, and abilities, and how do those influence their actions?”

This question is mainly for assigning your character unique perks, features, and traits. Though they might seem minuscule, small details such as a character’s favorite sitcom or painter can add more dimension to a story.

10. “Why is this story important to the character?”

Lastly, looking at your story through your own character’s perspective is extremely helpful. Why this story, out of your character’s entire life and timeline? Why these specific characters, why this specific narrative? Ask yourself what your purpose in writing this story is, and intertwine these with insight from your characters.

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Esther Lee
Esther Lee

Esther Lee is a seventeen year old writer and a high school junior residing in Southern California. Her poetry and short stories have been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Hollins University, and Princeton University, among others. She's an avid tea drinker who loves sketching in her Moleskine, journalism, and watching Brooklyn Nine Nine.

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