by Christian Sexton
There are three parts to a character: a personality, a backstory, and a motivation. These three things are what create your story.
Most important of the three is the character’s desire, or motivation. A motivation has the potential to be the backbone of the entire story, create a character arc, or add a more complex dimension to your story.
To create amazing character motivations, here are four rules.
Having trouble coming up for a name for your character? Look no further! This random character name generator is just the tool you need.
A good writer knows that word choice can make or break a story, and character names are no exception. The names you choose resonate with readers on both a conscious and subconscious level. They have the power to convey meaning overtly or through hidden messages.
For instance, in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jekyll’s experiment unleashes his animalistic alter-ego, Hyde. Jekyll has the word “Kill” hidden inside it, and Jekyll is after Hyde’s “hide.” See? The entire story is given away in their names alone. Stevenson’s layers of meaning are a fine example of the density that can and should be packed into names.
Nobody goes through life without some help, and the same goes for your main characters. It’s nearly impossible for a story or novel to be complete without a few secondary characters to support and put a spotlight on your lead.
What would Holmes be without Watson? Or Alice in Wonderland without the Cheshire Cat? Or the Merchant of Venice without Shylock?
Your characters matter more than your plot.
I’ll say it again: your characters matter more than your plot.
You can give your audience dragons, mystery, romance, or even a massacre at a wedding, but none of that will matter if the reader doesn’t care what happens to the people. They are the ones who drive the story. You can build the most unique world with the most intricate plot, but if your characters have as much collective personality as a lamp, then your fiction will have as much life and energy as an Ikea warehouse.
The vast majority of character descriptions are simply lazy.
They recycle typical ideas about hair, eye color, and build, giving you more information about the character’s fitting for a dress or suit than the type of information you need to know them intimately.
The first thing you should do when describing a character is to pick a category that isn’t so overused. Such as trying to describe:
There are lots of character questionnaires out there stuffed with 200, 300, and even 400 questions.
This is overkill.
It’s not about how many questions you can answer, it’s about what questions you’re asking.
The majority of questions on these questionnaires are filler that waste the author’s time. I mean, “How does this character view life?” or “What is this character’s dental work like?” (I’m not kidding).
This is garbage, and ultimately unhelpful to making the character a fully realized human on the page.
Let’s skip right over the ones that you should know already: