Good Characterization

First, let me put in a little disclaimer: I am not all-knowing, this article is not comprehensive, and there may very well be things I miss or get wrong. This is more like "Elle's Very Short List of Things You Can Do to Make Good Characters."

Now that you've been forewarned, let's get this show on the road!

Face sketches in pencil

This sketch is property of Tracy Butler, author of Lackadaisy

There are an unlimited number of characters waiting to be made. It's easy to see a character as simply a collection of traits thrown together from a list (tall, male, beardy, clumsy) or simply a reinvention of a similar character you know (Rooster Cogburn, only younger).

With so many options, how am I supposed to know the way I do it is the "right" way?

Simple: I don't.

But through my years of writing, I've come up against a couple principles really consistently.


Your character has to belong in the world you've crafted for them. Where they grew up, what school they went to, the people they've befriended (or hated) should all affect how your character thinks and acts. When a character and a world meet, it's the world that changes the character every time. Sometimes, the character can reciprocate.

We'll call this step "grounding." When your character is grounded in your world, they're part of it, and they belong to it.


Your character needs to have a reason for doing what he or she does (this would be the "quest" in an adventure story, or the "mission" in a war story). When the hero's only reason for saving the world is "because the bad guy kidnapped my girlfriend," then the hero's actions and attitude should reflect that.

It's important to note that the character's reasons don't have to be good. In fact, when they have hollow or even terrible reasons for doing things, that's an awesome opportunity for them to grow as people. (Character development for the win!)


I have found, in my stories at least, that the physical appearance of the characters makes relatively little difference. Sometimes I start with an appearance and build from there, but it's relatively rare.

That said, this could be very different for another writer, or for a character who is very aware of his own appearance.

That's all I have for today, either because I'm completely distracted by a new story concept about a lost royal family rediscovered because they accidentally bond to magical beasts that shouldn't exist, or because my brain is done thinking. Either way, I shall let you go.

So long, farewell, alvederzane, goodbye. If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, feel free to let me know! Feedback is LIFE.

Until next time, stay cool, readers.

#Writing #Creating #Character

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