Creating Characters by Allison Symes

Character creation is my favourite aspect of fiction writing. I love inventing new people and working out what makes them tick. I then dump them right in it,  create interesting situations for them to tackle.

What a writer needs to know about their characters before writing their stories varies but I’ve found the following questions useful. 

Character Reactions
How will your characters react to the challenges you set them? Pixabay image.

What is their major trait? 

What they think their major trait is as it often doesn’t match what other characters think! That in itself can lead to interesting conflicts. (How many characters would acknowledge they’re boastful and proud? We can tell they are from the way they act but they’ll inevitably paint themselves in a positive light! Self deception can be useful for creating funny characters too).  

What do they need to achieve and why? 

What stops them achieving their objective and why?

Character Reactions to your challenges
It's a good sign if your characters feel like this by the time you've finished with them! Pixabay image

 Further Questions to Consider 

What are your characters prepared to do to remove anything or anyone blocking them? 

What won’t they do under any circumstances? 

What would they do if faced with circumstances forcing them to reconsider that answer? 

How friendly are they? (It is no coincidence Ebenezer Scrooge had no friends before meeting the ghosts. Friendliness matters!). 

How well off are they? This matters as poverty can drive people to do all manner of things, as  can wealth. One is driven by desperation, the other by greed. Where does your character sit here? Do they see money as a tool to be used for good or something to acquire no matter what?  

What is their goal in life?

I don’t answer every question for each flash or short story I write. But all do come up at different times, depending on what I’m writing. 

I always need to know the answers to a character's major traits, what they need to achieve and why, and what stops them achieving it. I also need to know what they would be prepared to do.  I find I know many of the answers to the others depending on what I devise for these four core points. 

Story Worlds
What story worlds will emerge from your PC/laptop? Pixabay image

If I know my character’s major trait is ruthlessness, I know immediately they will do almost anything.  It also tells me they’re unlikely to be friendly and their goal in life is to make as much money as possible, no matter what it takes. (Though whether they have regrets about this later can also make a great story). 

If I know the major trait is courage, the answer to what my character would be prepared to do will be more honourable (such as risking their life to help someone else by tackling the villain so the someone else doesn’t). They’ll be motivated by love rather than money and will be friendly. Their goal in life may be to right a great wrong no matter what. 

So in which direction will your characters go? Pixabay image

Think about what you need to know about your characters. I focus on this for outlining (and I have written an outlining paragraph for flash fiction before now. Result? Clear path as to which route out of several I could take with the character in question. Saved me a great deal of time later).

Time Challenge
Will your characters have the challenge of time to overcome? Pixabay image.


  1. Very interesting, Allison! I like the idea of them wanting to escape from the novel.

  2. Great ideas for finding out what your character wants most of all and then preventing them from getting it! We are so horrid to our characters!

    1. Yes but that's the fun of it, Fran! Also we want our characters to really strive. They must earn their reward!

  3. This is great. Some really useful ways of thinking about characters here. Thank you!

  4. Brilliant, as always. Thank you


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