Shop Forum More Submit  Join Login
Are you starting a story? Do you have an incomplete, flawed, or no character at all? It's happened to me many times and in my struggles to perfect my creations, I have learned a few things. I present you with seven easy steps with a challenge each to get you thinking.

Grab a piece of paper and a pencil. Let's start…

Step 1: Past

When creating a character, you must first establish a past. Even a person with amnesia has a past, they just don't remember it. Pasts are important, they show what shaped the person and why they are the way they are today.

If your character has a scar, why? If they have amnesia, why? If they have a phobia of water, why?

Remember one thing: there is always a reason.

Challenge: Write a brief story (vignette) of your character's past to familiarize yourself with the way things were.

Step 2: Appearance

You may have a certain idea, a vague idea, or no idea at all as to how your character will look. First, think of their past. Having survived their past, how do they look? If they were rich and enjoyed it, would they be on the chubby side?

Some important things to consider when thinking of appearance: eye color, skin color, hair color/hair type (long and full of body, etc.), height, weight, scars or flaws in skin (missing limbs, etc.), amount of muscle, emotions most conveyed in face (haunted, cheerful, etc.), distinguishing markings (tattoos, brandings, etc.), and whatever else you feel is important.

Whether or not you're good at drawing, it's a good idea to try to draw your character at least once to establish familiarity and finalize their design in your head.

Challenge: Draw your character now or write a detailed description from the point of view a stranger off the street.

Step 3: Relationships

Now we move on to relationships. Relationships are vital; they tie in with a character's past, their present, and their future. You'll want to know who your character's mother, father, extended family, friends, boy/girlfriend(s), and enemies are. If your character's parents are MIA, do they have foster parents? Do they live in an orphanage? Are they old enough to live alone?

How do these relationships affect your character?

Challenge: Write a vignette with your character interacting with their enemy and closest friend at the same time to distinguish how they feel for each other.

Step 4: Powers

Powers apply to nonfiction or realistic-fiction characters as well as fictional.

Nonfiction or Realistic-Fiction Characters: These characters powers would be talents. Are they really smart? Can they run faster than most? Make sure you establish the most important powers. There is always a reason they have these "powers."

Fictional Characters: These characters may have more interesting powers such as super-strength, telekinesis, ect.  The difference with these powers is there isn't always a reason they have them, though it tends make more sense if there was.

A note on fictional powers: Like people, no interesting powers are perfect. You always hear the stories of the genie that turned someone into a frog because they wanted to jump high. Powers with no limit that can easily be mastered are no fun to read about or watch. Make it part of the journey to harness the magic, or if they already have before the story starts somehow show that even the most experienced handler can have troubles. Even quarterbacks have their bad season.

Challenge: If you have a non- or realistic-fiction character, research how they may have obtained such talents. Was it through intensive training or does it run in the family? If you have fictional characters, find a way around the power (like resisting the Force from Star Wars) and file it away for later when your story needs spicing up.

Step 5: Present Personality

Now that all the past and omnipresent facts are established, you need to know how the present situation (your story) is affecting your character depending on their personality (which should have been developed along the first three steps). This is the easiest and hardest step so far.

Put your character in a situation and watch how they handle it. If someone attacks them, what will they do? The outcome reflects your characters present personality.

Also, you want to note your character's current age.

Challenge: Ask a friend(s) to do some role-playing, dole out the characters and their personalities, the situation ("Okay guys, we're all in a park about to bust some drug dealers…") and let fly. Surprising things can happen if they play their roles correctly.

Step 6: Believability

Characters must be believable. I need to emphasize the must. All people have a weakness, whether it be a fear of heights or a limp. As your character is a believable person, they will need a weakness. It can be big or small, noticeable or inconspicuous; there can even be more than one.

No one is invincible.

Some examples include: Superman and his weakness to kryptonite, Iron Man and his weakness to electro-magnetic pulses.

But a character doesn't just need a weakness to a physical object; they can also be guilt-ridden or insecure. Any negative human emotion can do it.

In the protagonist (good guy or hero) the reader/viewer will tend to look for a bit of themselves in the character and they often tend to keep reading/watching if they do. For them, to see someone they can sympathize with go through a journey and defeat the villain is proof they could do it too. Everyone likes encouragement.

Challenge: List three possible weaknesses now. (These can always be changed later)

Step 7: Last Touches

I can never tell someone how to make a character perfect, it takes days of hard work and lots of vignettes to shave your character down to size. If you've been organized you may have written your characters info in a notebook or word processor document while reading this, good job!

Believe it or not, a name is one of the last things you give a character. When naming, keep in mind the origins of your character. If their parents were Mexican, would they have a Spanish name?

Most names also have meanings. If you already have a name in mind, go check the meaning. Sometimes it just feels right to give a character a name with a definition that seems right. I recommend for your most reliable naming source.

One last touch before you can continue perfecting your character: decide whether they are going to be static or dynamic.

Static means the character does not change as a person (personality).

Dynamic means they do change as a person.

Challenge: Research three possible names now.


-To use this guide, there is no need to do the Steps in order. Your fresh-baked character will come out all the same if you name them first, and give them a weakness last.

- For a main character, you normally want to create someone the readers will be sympathetic with. It doesn't usually do to have the viewers booing the hero.

- For an antagonist (bad guy) you generally want to make a despicable person if they're static, or someone that the readers could sympathize with if they are dynamic for the better (turn good or find peace).

- (Most) characters are human, humans act human. Observe some people (without being creepy) and just see how they act and interact.

- There is a distinct difference between nonfiction and fantastical characters. With this guide, you can profile (or organize the facts) a nonfiction character, you're not really creating them. When profiling a nonfiction character, the author may hold little to no creative liberty over them, while with a fictional character there is literally a blank page to fill. Make sure to stick to facts when profiling a nonfiction character.

- Be aware of "May-Sue's" and "Gary-Stu's," the faulty-beyond-reason characters. There is no set definition for these characters, but they are often "perfect," ask any writer, read a story some have shown a Sue or Stu to star in, and you'll know what they are.

- If your character has a favorite weapon, make sure to include that in your notes too.


You now have a bit more than a basic outline of your character! Go on and write your screenplay, script, short story, or novel! There's nothing quite like completing a riveting story. Good luck!

"Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit." - Conrad Hilton

"It is our choices ... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." - J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets)
A quick guide on how to make a character.

Please note I'm not a professional and this is more of a cookie-cutter for a character, it's really what you write in the end that makes them uniqe.

Good luck everyone! I hope this was useful! :P

Recently created a companion piece here. Also, a lovely meme based on this guide.

2-21-11 Thank you Turbulence1973 for reminding me to add the weakness guide!
2-22-11 Added challenges and revised.
3-3-11 Added two Tips.
3-5-11 OHMIGOD! This is a Daily Deviation!!! *Faints*
Add a Comment:

Daily Deviation

Given 2011-03-05
To Create a Character by ~WarriorLoverInc -- Suggester's words: Not only does this character creation guide help those who have trouble creating believable characters, it also has little challenges to help you along the way. A wonderful resource for any writer. ( Suggested by Tuttlebird and Featured by FantasyStock )
NathyLoussop Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2018  Student Writer
Hello, I found your text and it's amazing! If possible can I translate it for portuguese for help some friends? I'll credit you
DewsALot Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2017  Student Writer
Outstanding information!
AKATSUKIGIRL47 Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
this could help me with my Ivan ...... i was going to start with his birth and end with his resurrection, but postponed it cause i'm not sure how in depth it should be, how many details and such.
LharskiiShana Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2016
how can i make a character ??
LharskiiShana Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2016
how to create characters ???
edwin0079 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2016
I would like to save this for later use but how do I save it? If possible
AKATSUKIGIRL47 Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
This will help me make my fictional character ivan be more realistic?
Shadowfalls221 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
thanks, you've helped me an awful lot with the plans to a new story i'm planning on writing
Hntpo Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Looks super useful, thanks !! :D
PlatinumScars Featured By Owner Nov 27, 2015  Student Artist
I feel so determined to create a really good character right now.
renamayuuki Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2015
wow...this really helps :)
hina-star Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2015  Student
this was very helpful, thanks! :D
ArtisticPessimistic Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This was very helpful thank you! <3
killerrainbow123 Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2014  Student Artist
the easiest way is to listen to music and make a character that fits the song
jadalynnpierson Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
so many words omg:3
Broken-Fates Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Super helpful :) thanks :D :3 <3
Siniaes Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is really helpful!!
Thank you!! <3
Scr1b3 Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Purple4Unicorns Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013
When You're given a name, it most likely has nothing to do with who you are because you're parents name you before you even develop a personality, so technically it would make a more realistic story to use a name without looking up the meaning, unless you want to seem like a cheesy author.
PrincessTwili Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Well, I totally harbor the suspicion that people grow into their names--so like, any Britney I've known looks like a Britney, and so on and so forth~ So I dunno, I think that names tend to fit characters, whether you choose it first or last, and it might be easier to make a character and then find a name that fits XD
Purple4Unicorns Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013
other than that, this is a really good guide.
Firestarawesome Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
"Observe some people (without being creepy)"

Aww man, that's no fun! :iconohnoesplz:
AmbientDays Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
XD I totally agree!
asaquru10 Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
great tips

I shall use these in the future
nightrainkatana Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
i just saw that the preview icon has a ribbon type thing with the cat on the front cover of warrior cats the new prophecy no.2 on it (sorry bit of a nerd when it comes to that~)
ScatteredDreamer Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This is extremely useful! I wish I had this, like, five years ago. :XD:
I love the challenges in particular - it's one thing to say what your character's past is, or what their personality is like, and another to actually apply that. I ended up learning a lot more about a character I've had for nearly six years that I thought I knew so well through them alone. Beautifully written, and definitely a deserving Daily Deviation. Thank you so much! :)
skittykitty-13 Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2012
how do you make storys like that :?
LadyDemon389 Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2012
Very resourceful and I will be able to use a lot of this when creating my characters :)
KeiraTehKewl Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
Wow, this is so helpful! Thank you so much! <3
NiibiDemonSukiChan Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This helps a lot! Thanks and the Daily Deviation was totally deserved! :hug:
Hessanite Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I like this!
10kdays Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm just creating characters for a novel I am writing and this has helped so much. I found a couple of the tips and challenges extremely interesting. For example, giving a personality and seeing how they act it out, and the appearance from a person on the street. Both so simple but really helpful - thank you!
And of course everyone loves inspiring quotes.
SarahLovesCookies Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Cool, Thank you. I made a character now~
Elle St. Claire
thetrueCrystalVixen Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
^W^ this is a lovely and helpful piece, thank you~
inknalcohol Featured By Owner May 10, 2012   Writer

You've been featured in #Beta-Readers' very first Resource Feature.

Thank you for the wonderful resource!
WarriorLoverInc Featured By Owner May 11, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks so much! :hug:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner May 11, 2012   Writer
Dragolith213 Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I would say this is very helpful for all of us here that want to start writing, but the true challenge seems to lie with just having a knowledge of things and a broadened vocabulary to be able to explain what image we're trying to portray in our stories.
WarriorLoverInc Featured By Owner May 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Of course. :aww: Writing is an art, developed by each individual's hand. We may be taught the structure of words and grammar, but no one can teach us how to inject spirit into our craft. That is something we must learn for ourselves. :)
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
WarriorLoverInc Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:blush: Thanks for the :+fav: too. :aww:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Welcome! I needed help fleshing out my OC's and characters in general, and my dear friend *Jelouu recommended your character sheet layouts
WarriorLoverInc Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
... People are recommending me... *mindblown* I'm still not over getting a Daily Deviation!
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
They are very helpful.

And that's exciting! I'll have to check that out!
Dragolith213 Featured By Owner May 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Very well put :)
WarriorLoverInc Featured By Owner May 5, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I try. :hug: Thanks for commenting!
TheApprentice75 Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
The wonders will never sees.... Master Writer, I applaud you for the brilliant things you do.
WarriorLoverInc Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:blush: Thanks! And thanks for the :+fav:'s too! :tighthug:
TheApprentice75 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
not a problem.
Rasenryu Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Wow, this was really helpful!
Add a Comment:

:iconwarriorloverinc: More from WarriorLoverInc

Featured in Collections

Tutorials by Pokeumans

Writing by heyzey

Writing Tips by SleeplessStarless

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
February 21, 2011
File Size
9.2 KB


23,361 (3 today)
1,201 (who?)


Creative Commons License
Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.