The personality of characters


A character is made up of many traits (or should have multiple traits), which makes them stand out. They should be distinctly individual to the point of being memorable. But how to do this?

Consider these influences:

Religion. A person’s spiritual belief systems plays a role in morality but also life choices.

Politics. How we relate to the laws and the government system play a crucial role. A hero who lives in a rigid metropolis differs than the character in a free-love hippy commune.

Employment. Often the work we do defines our character. Consider the traits between a teacher, firefighter, construction worker, or soldier. Not everyone is cut out for those types of jobs either.

History. Not just our personal history of our lives, but family history also play a key role in developing a character. You might write into someone a strong sense of family, or they are bound to a culture through their family. Someone surviving a war, or lived through the Depression are quite distinct.

Birth order. Studies show that birth order play a role into building character such as the eldest child often learns responsibility, while the baby of the family gets away with things.

Gender and race. Men and women face different obstacles in life. Combined with race, you find prejudices, sexism, even culture issues rise up.

Trauma. You might consider having a character deal with a trauma in their life. Not everyone falls apart, while others might grow or turn a bad condition into their favor, others might slip into depression or psychosis.

Introvert or Extrovert. Introvert doesn’t mean shy, although many people might perceive their behavior as being similar. Introverts do not get charged up being in groups. They prefer being alone. Extroverts thrive in group situations.

Emotion or logic. Does your character follow what their heart tells them, or do they follow their head?

  • Remember to be constant with the character traits you’ve selected for your character.
  • You also need your character to grow and evolve. A handicap or something like their fears can be overcome, a lesson is learned, they develop through the story.
  • Characters need flaws. This is what makes us human- our imperfections. Some people hide it better than others, but they make for interesting traits in story telling.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator helps with creating characters by personality type.

Writing Prompt: Throw some personality traits together and select them at random to see what kind of characters to create.



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