One of the most important things to me when it comes to writing and reading is a well-made character. As you can see from my extensive character page, I put a lot of work into backstory and appearance for mine. I have a certain brand, and I’m happy to show it through gothic or punkish characters that tend to be powerful humans or monsters.
However, their baseline looks and actions aren’t what define them entirely. It’s also about personality, reactions, and the story overall. That, of course, might develop when you have your character created. When character building, you might want to keep certain traits in mind.
Of course, not everything here listed is quirks. That’s where the ‘and stuff’ comes in, which is incredibly important. That said, in this article, we will explore some traits to keep in mind while character building!
My genre of choice, forever, is fantasy, and that often comes with some special powers that a character might be really good at. This can shape personalities, especially depending on how the character uses them. You might have a necromancer, for example, who only raises the willing undead to help protect a town. Conversely, you might have a healer that makes sure an army of evil characters never falls. It’s not about the magic, it’s about the person using it.
You might play by tropes with some characters, things seen often in fantasy, which is perfectly alright too. There’s ways to spice it up and bring something new to the table for sure. Don’t be afraid to reverse tropes, however. Dark magic being used for ‘good’, light magic being used for ‘bad’ is a good one. How will your character either bring something new to the table for an established trope, or turn a trope right on it’s head?
What annoys you the most? It might be incredibly distracting to you in real life–and this can be something relatable to characters, too. Even if not, many people have things that annoy them, and this can define how they react. Think about how much it annoys your character, what, and why. Did something happen in their past to cause this? Did the character develop an odd quirk as a reaction to this issue?
You could put something relatable to people in general, or something absurd that will stick out. This oddly specific bird call bothers them for ‘reasons’. There can even be a dark or light-hearted story to go along with why. The why in these cases might be important, or it might just be something that’s always been a thing about your character. In this case, depth can be cool, but not necessary.
Social or Shy
The outside world always talks about introverts versus extroverts. I consider myself an introvert even if I enjoy talking to people and listening to stories. Your character can be one end of the extreme or anything in between. This will obviously affect dialogue and interaction with other characters in the story. Consider the character’s thought process, though. Are you writing in a way where the reader is seeing into the character’s head? What happens when they are dragged out of their comfort zone either way?
We usually see that trope of the shy one being dragged to a party and having to socialize. It’d be interesting to see more stories where that’s reversed. Perhaps an instance where a social character joins a club where you’re meant to be quiet and socialize less or later, but they are super curious about other characters and have to put effort into not asking questions for a while.
This is definitely not a ‘quirk’, but something incredibly important. If you’re writing an ethnicity, sexuality, or gender that you are not a part of, make sure to do your research and not write stereotypes. I suggest getting a sensitivity reader, which is something I did for one of my recent manuscripts in terms of sapphic sex. I am a bi woman but have only ever been with a man, so wanted to make sure I got things right! Luckily, I passed with flying colors and had to make some minimal changes. It’s a great experience.
Be mindful of how you are using representation and, again, not turning a character into a stereotype. These are characters, and should be treated like any other character. Don’t make these traits the main focus if you are not from the group, but be sure to not be offensive with representation. Would you want to be depicted in a horrible light on a regular basis? Or do you want to be the hero or deep character of a story like those commonly represented in media?
Alone versus with people
How does your character act around people versus alone? They say you have different faces either way, and this could be a great way to depict your character. Do they have secret activities they indulge in alone that no one else knows about? Something silly or suspenseful? Do they were a mask of ‘niceness’ around people, but in reality, are really horrible when dealing with people online (if your story is in a modern era)?
This also goes right along with whether the character is shy or not. They could have different speech patterns or behaviors around strangers versus close friends, which can be a good way to build character. I, for example, am incredibly quiet when first meeting someone, and often am content with listening. Around friends, however, I speak up more and relax. Even if only just a little bit more!
Hobbies can sometimes define you, and that is no different with your character. You can take the unexpected route with this, as well. Take a character you wouldn’t imagine having a certain hobby on, and give them said hobby. I will use my vampire gang leader Ares as an example. He looks pretty scary and fierce, and is, in battle. However, there’s one thing he loves with all of his heart. Dungeons & Dragons! He is a huge geek, even if he doesn’t look like one. It’s so fun to completely shatter expectations.
You can have a great time playing around with this too, and challenge the ‘norm’, something really important in writing. Give your tough guy boss-character knitting. Give your shy lady character boxing or some other combat-based hobby. Monster cars! Things like that. There’s so much you can do to challenge the norm, and I would love to see more of that.
Well, there you have it! Those are just a few ideas for character development that might help your writing. Hopefully I brought up some things you might not have thought of before. I’m back to writing blog articles again, so if you want weekly content, please subscribe to this blog! I’ll often put out writing ideas for my fellow writers that tend to be a stream of thought. Why not, right?
Stay tuned for my audiobook announcement and article! It’s going to be sweet.
Want to meet a pretty fierce character? Pick up my dystopic urban fantasy Red Viper today!