How to Build Strong Characters

At one point or another, you will write short stories in school, and one of the first things you will need to do is develop characters to carry out your story. Now, if you want to write a great short story, you must create strong characters. Doing so will provide them with their own authentic identity, convincing personality, and clear motivations. Throughout your story, you will also see some of your characters evolve as they go through life events as a result of their experiences or actions.

Here are a few ways you can develop strong characters:

Identify your characters and their roles

Your story cannot develop if you do not have characters, so you need to identify who they are and their role in the story. They can be major characters, such as a protagonist and an antagonist, and supporting characters. I will explain each of these different types of characters later on.

If you’ve read Harry Potter, for example, you will know that the author, J.K. Rowling, introduces the main character as an 11-year-old boy wizard who lives with his aunt and uncle. She describes him as a shy, skinny boy who is constantly bullied by his cousin. She also describes his physical attributes, including the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead that he got after Voldemort attempted to kill him when he was a baby. Through Rowling’s detailed descriptions of Harry Potter, readers get a sense of her main character’s personality traits and how he will evolve.

Show how your characters affect the story

Now that we have established your story’s characters and their roles, we want to develop them even more. One thing to always keep in mind is your characters should develop as your story progresses. You want to give them a goal to accomplish. This purpose is essentially what your characters, especially your protagonist, will try to fulfill throughout the story.

So, you might be wondering – who or what is a protagonist and how do you develop one? This will be explained more in the next section.

Develop a protagonist

Your protagonist is undeniably the main character of your story. They will not be perfect, but you don’t want them to be. You want them to have imperfections because as humans, we all have flaws, and you will want to highlight some of them in your protagonist. Doing this will give your main character the motivation to persevere as they face challenges, and their determination will ultimately be the driving force that changes the course of events in your story.

Develop an antagonist

Many short stories have an antagonist to counter the protagonist. Normally, an antagonist is the villain whose intention is to cause trouble for the protagonist by ensuring the end goal is harder to achieve. When creating an antagonist, you will want to make them strong and powerful, so they are a great adversary to the main character.

Develop secondary characters to support the protagonist

Secondary characters assist the protagonist with their problems and help advance their development. They might inspire the protagonist to do something heroic or even something stupid. While not necessarily the “bad guy”, they might also stand in the protagonist’s way, hindering them from completing a task (NYBE, 2021).

Find inspiration

To develop strong characters, try to find inspiration outside of your writing nook. Go to a park and observe people around you. Watch how they naturally interact with others and pay attention to how they move. Now, like the people you’ve observed, think of how you want your characters to interact with one another and how you’d want them to move within the story. In a notebook, write as concisely as you can these details about them. From here, you should be able to strengthen your characters’ traits and personalities.

 

My tips will help you develop strong characters to help your short story flourish. I also encourage you to take a look at the following posts to help you further. They highlight story prompts by popular genres and common themes and even teach you how to write an epic story. With strong character development, your characters will come alive and will be more relatable and memorable to your readers.

 

References

NYBE (2021). “Your Guide to Creating Secondary Characters”. NY Book Editors. Accessed on March 15th, 2021 via https://nybookeditors.com/2016/02/your-guide-to-creating-secondary-characters/#:~:text=What%20is%20a%20Secondary%20Character,helps%20define%20the%20story’s%20setting.

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The Literary Tutor

We are English tutors helping students ignite their imagination through reading and discover their unique voice through writing.

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