The Well Storied website has a post by Kristen Kieffer – ’33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters’ – that I think is quite useful. She divides her advice into three categories:
- Fourteen things to give your character
- Six things to make your character, and
- Thirteen things to find for your character
Ms Kieffer, according to her blog “is an author of fantasy fiction and creative writing resources. At Well-Storied, she strives to help writers craft sensational novels and build their very best writing lives”. Her website offers workbooks, podcasts, a newsletter, Scrivener Tutorials and free courses,, as well as copies of her books.
I have selected below some of her more interesting points:
Give your characters a fear: Fear shapes the human experience, creating doubts and insecurities that plague our actions, mindsets, and relationships. Add a little necessary realism to your story by giving your character a few fears as well.
Give your characters a flaw: To be imperfect is to be human. Write a human story by giving your character personality flaws that play into their relationships, fears, disappointments, and discontent.
Give them a history: Our pasts shape who we become. Give your character a rich history that affects both the person they are when your story begins and how they will handle the journey to come.
Give them a quirk: Everyone has their strange qualities or habits, and often times, being a bit strange is just as exciting or memorable as being passionate. Help your character stand out from the crowd by giving them a quirk or two of their own.
Give them a desire: Desires are powerful motivators. They can push your character to great deeds just as quickly as they can tempt them to take action they’ll regret.
Make your characters complex: Don’t stop at simply creating a well-developed character. Actively work to bring your character’s complexities to life on the page by putting them in as many diverse situations as possible.
Make them unique:It’s easy to fall into stereotypes and worn-out character tropes, but don’t give in. Work instead to create characters unique to your story, ones that readers will instantly recognize as your own.
Make them relatable: To relate is to create connection, to see others as just as human as you are. Making even the most evil of characters relatable in some small way can give your character some much needed humanity.
Make them fail: Failure is a springboard to growth. Allowing your character to fail gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and develop as human beings, creating excellent internal conflict for your story.
Make them suffer: Take your character from the highest heights to the lowest depths. By allowing your character to suffer (especially during the Dark Night of the Soul), you prove their mettle, endear readers to their cause, and define their growth as a result of their journey.
Find your characters’ identity: Understanding how your character defines themselves in life can help you better understand how they interact with and present themselves to the world. When defining your character’s identity, consider elements such as their gender identity, race, sexuality, religion, ancestry, and interests.
Find their refuge: When all seems lost, a safe haven can keep hope alive for your character. Allow your character to find this refuge when they most need it, so they can receive the respite they need to recharge for your story’s climax.
Find their redemption: Your character will screw up. They will make decisions that harm themselves or others. They will fail. It’s how they make things right that will define who they are at heart.