بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
Three Easy Tips
for Writing Characters
Forget all those character sheets and personality tests. These three tips are what I use whenever I write unique and memorable characters. Of course, if you like filling out templates and taking character quizzes, then by all means go ahead and do them. But if you want to get straight into your writing, then these tips will help.
let them wear masks
(C) Non Non Biyori
We respond to individuals differently and based on our relationships to them. We wear masks. Our characters do, too. They shouldn’t react the same way to everyone or every situation.
Think of the way you would react to “Can you help me?” when asked by your mother vs your best friend vs a complete stranger vs a celebrity. In some cases you’d be eager to help, while in others you would hesitate as you assess the priority of this “help”—and it will also depend on your mood and energy levels or if you’re able to at the moment.
The same applies for your characters. They will not react the same way to each person or situation they encounter.
give them a quirk
(C) My Hero Academia
No, not that type of quirk…🤣
People are weird. People don’t make sense sometimes. They’ll have strange habits, things that make them unique—and it goes beyond hair, eye, and skin colors. Maybe they always crack their middle and ring fingers on their left hand but not the other fingers. Or maybe they fiddle with a ring on their thumb when they’re afraid. Nail-biting is a common quirk but give it a unique spin to make this character stand out. Maybe they only bite the corners of their pinky nail because they’re in a stressful situation.
Small quirks are what makes these characters stick out to the reader—and make them more human when they’re just words on a page.
let them be
This may be for those who’ve been writing for a while, but I’ve noticed with my writing, my characters pretty much will do what they want—and I’m just writing them. If I try to get them to do or say something, it will feel off when I go back to reread it. Like they weren’t meant to do or say that, and I have to go and change it otherwise my story won’t progress.
An example of this is when I have a secretive character who strategically reveals only what she thinks her daughter should know, but all of sudden, she tells her adult daughter that she remarried (she lost her husband when her daughter was a baby) and is emotional at the thought of his sudden imprisonment. The situation wasn’t right for this reveal nor was the setting (they were in public) and knowing this particular character, this was completely out of character for her. I also blame a timed writing sprint where I was just cranking out as many words as I could in a short amount of time, but that’s a story for another time.
So, anyway, just let your characters be—and if they are acting out (if it’s not intentional to the story), then go ahead and fix it.
Writing Exercise: Write a scene from each of your main/side characters. What’s something only they would notice? Or comment on? Or ignore?
What are your tips for writing characters?