#NaNoForItsuki: Prep! I.III Creating Characters

Creating a cast of characters with enough depth, personality, and complexity to be believable without overwhelming yourself - and your readers - is one of the most difficult tasks of writing. How do you develop a lead that your readers will care about, invest in, and love (or hate!) enough to want to read about them?

Of course, you don’t want them to be too shallow, or one dimensional - unless, that’s like, their “thing” and their lack of growth and dynamic personality is intentional.

And you don’t want them to be “too perfect.” No one wants a Mary Sue or Gary Stu. But they can be special, right? I mean, maybe their unprecedented something-or-other is what the whole story is about in the first place.

There are a million and a half articles out there about creating believable characters, such as this one, or this one.

(Do the authors of these articles have any credibility? Who knows!)

Author Randy Ribay wrote an article about the topic of character creation that really resonated with me for a couple of reasons. You can read his words directly here.

Now, it’s short, but he offers a few right-to-the-point questions for you to ask yourself about the people you are populating your fictional world with. One thing he said about character writing that caught my attention is that personality profiles and character sheets don’t really work for him.

For some people, that’s the standard. Like our PRSFNE character sheets, it can sometimes be very helpful to get a little profile put together to help you begin to frame the personality and lifestyle of your characters.

Who are they? Where did they come from? Who do they know? These kinds of questions will help you build the skeleton of that person’s perspective, their frame of view, and give you some insight about what kinds of decisions they might make and how they react to different situations that you intend to put them in.

A tip - I cannot for the life of me remember who said it, or when I heard it, but it works - that I have been using for years is this: steal. There are seven billion humans on the face of this Earth, each with distinct and sometimes even interesting personalities. If creating a person from thin air isn’t your thing, or if you’re struggling, use someone you know. For every character you create, put the heart of a real person inside them.

What are some useful tricks you use when you’re trying to come up with a believable cast of characters for your work? What are some struggles you face?

If you’re struggling, or feeling brave and want to inspire everyone, comment below with an example of a character you’ve created that did/didn’t work well or that you were proud of.

Looking forward to this with all of you!



MC of what I plan on working on is basically me with a lot of swearing (and probably some other differences, but definitely lots more swearing).


You know, this line really got me thinking (in a good way, as most of your posts have on this topic.)

At no point in setting up for this did it ever occur to me that anyone else would ever read this story. I just figured I was doing a creative writing exercise for any number of reasons. Team building exercise with you guys, challenge to myself, attempt to increase my creativity, etc. But, trying to write someone that someone would WANT to read…never occurred to me.

Is that unusual? In your experience do people actually try to write something that would be widely read? Or is it more of an exercise? Or can it be both?

I’m just curious.


I mainly write to please myself, and if I like it enough I might share and see what can be adjusted.

Edit to add: one of my classmates from college was kind enough to give me a bunch of notes on the NaNo I’m going to try writing the sequel for when I asked for a beta read. It was the first one I felt could go beyond my own personal stash of reading material.

Edit #2: I found the best bit from her notes.


For myself (speaking again from my own motivation and experience, although I know that many people differ) having others’ feedback on my work helps me to learn and grow as a writer. It expands my creativity and tests my ability to take criticism, to expand my perspective, and think critically about my own work. And I enjoy that. I need it because it makes me better.

Personally… I write because I love it, it brings me fulfillment and joy. I have a small number of friends and family who are usually very interested in what I write. But I write with this constant thought in my mind, “Would this make people feel things?” Is this conveying the ideas that inspired it? Is it giving life to the emotions and concepts that made me want to write it?

So although I write for myself without any serious idea that a large number of people will read it, when I create a story, I do it with that mentality “Will anyone want to read about this?”

Most people, I think, write for its own sake. But with this notion that someday, someone may read it - and enjoy it, or not. It’s part of the reason why some people will give up partway through. Because they don’t think it’s worth reading, and therefore not worth writing. Whether that’s flawed or not, most of the people I know who write struggle with that.

All this was a long, roundabout way of answering your question. It can be both, and I think for many people - when it comes to NaNoWriMo in particular - it is both. (Especially for people trying to build discipline in writing.)


Been outlining my characters today, it can be hard, but I am enjoying watching the little things start to reveal themselves.
I am not even close to being done, I have so many characters to work on and see where they go, but it’s interesting for me to figure out where they have been. It kinda feels like they had a life before me, which is pretty awesome.
Hope everyone is having as much fun with prep work as I am!