How to Create Believable Characters

Creating characters that your readers can really relate to is the key to writing great stories. Try these ideas to help you create characters!


  1. Image titled Have a Notebook Step 1
    Have a notebook for keeping track of your ideas. Not only for characters, but also for plots, settings and anything else you can think of.
  2. Image titled Watch People Everywhere 2.jpeg
    Watch people everywhere. At the playground, the office, the grocery store, etc. Listen to how they speak, how they act, watch their body language and how they look. If you find any interesting ideas, write them down before you forget.
  3. Image titled Keep Track of Names Step 3
    Keep track of names you find appealing. Sometimes just a name can spark an idea for a character. At the same time, try to find memorable names, ones that are easy to remember. If you have a really long name, at least try to create a nickname. This makes it easier on your readers/viewers, and for you. You can look at the credits of a movie for good ideas.
  4. Image titled Make profiles for Characters Step 4
    Make profiles for your characters. Keep track of their name, age, personality, likes and dislikes, and everything in between.
  5. Image titled Put character in different situations Step 5
    Put your character in a few different situations and write about how they would react. How they talk, walk, their actions and how they might react to different characters.
  6. 6
    List your character's good traits, but here's the catch: if (s)he is a "good guy," for every two good traits, write a bad trait. If (s)he is a "bad guy," for every good trait, write two bad traits.


  • Traits such as clumsiness or nail biting are simply bad habits. They certainly make the characters interesting and in-depth, but these qualities alone can't function as real flaws. Same goes for being mean or rude at times (often unintentional) - it is not a real flaw, you must go more in-depth. Real flaws can include things such as trouble making friends, narcissism or self-obsessiveness, stubbornness, being shallow/superficial or betraying someone else for the sake of their own circumstances or benefit etc.
  • Treat your characters as real people, talk to a friend about them as if they were real, your friend will ask questions and you will get a better idea of your characters personality.
  • Let your character get sweaty, bruised, scarred or bleeding etc. If your story has violence or fight scenes (or if your character has been in fights or wars in the past), they should have some kind of scar. If they can get through a fight without one scratch or breaking a sweat, these scream "Mary Sue" alarm bells and as a result the reader will get suspicious.
  • It may seem obvious, but the name of your character must suit the time and setting of your universe in order to "fit in" within the universe you are writing for - even if you're the one who created it. For example, if you're writing a story that is based in 18th Century England, don't give he/she a modern name that is trendy in 2014.
  • It takes a long time to come up with suitable first and second names, keep going and make note of the names that work.
  • Make sure that they have a balance of both good and bad traits. This will make them more believable and easier to connect to. For every good trait, there should be a bad trait too. You can even go a step further and put these flaws in the way of the character's goal(s). For example, if your character is a girl who is fiercely determined, (good trait) you can make her self-obsessed or a stubborn pushover (bad trait).
  • Be wary of "Author Insert" or "Mary Sue" characters. In case you don't know what a Mary Sue (or in a male case, Gary Stu) character is, they are characters who are too perfect - usually a result of having too many good traits and few flaws. They are basically the kindest, prettiest, most powerful, talented characters whom everyone loves or (falls in love with). They usually have weird eyes or hair colour, strange clothes or clothing accessories, tragic pasts (though this doesn't always apply).They usually have impossible relationships with other characters (e.g. being the illegitimate son/daughter of a villain or main character who was previously killed off). They are usually an avatar of the author which is why they are called "author inserts".
  • You also shouldn't let your character win the fight in the first round either, as this gives the impression they are infallible (which again leads to Mary Sue). In order to reach their goal, there must be obstacles - and your character has to to fail somehow in order to reach it - be it through another character, the antagonist/villain, or one of your character's flaws that gets in the way of achieving this.
  • If you are writing characters for historical fiction, make sure you do your research. Research as much as you can. The people who lived in Paris 1940 is very different to Paris 1947, for example. Events are connected with people, so they are just as important when writing your characters who were most likely a part of that event. It is absolutely imperative you get your facts right as any historical inaccuracies or mistakes can be a major turn off to readers - especially if your character is based on a real person who actually existed. Remember, when writing historical characters, make sure you double-check your facts and sources.

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Categories: Character Creation