BUILDING A GREAT CHARACTER: how do you actually do it?

Isn’t it odd that when you first start writing a story, it’s the main character that is the least clear? All other characters seem to be functioning better than your hero, and you can’t figure out why.

This phenomenon is actually normal, because you are still figuring out your story and story is best figured out through your hero.

Ok, so how do you create believable characters that make me care?

There are countless lists online (see below for my favorites) about the make-up of strong characters, but before you consult them, follow these steps:

Step 1
Quit freaking out about WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? That’s a plot question, let’s focus on character.

Step 2
Pick a location, any location at all. Here are some locations you can feel free to use: Ice Cream Parlor, Hockey rink, gun-range, beach-side resort (in Lebanon, these are common thankyouverymuch), your balcony

Step 3
Pick a person, any person at all: a store clerk, your hero’s brother/sister/boss’ wife, an old man with a lisp, a 12-year old girl with a Justin Bieber obsession (you’re welcome).

Step 4
Stick your main character and the person you picked in Step #3 into the location you chose from Step #2. Ask yourself, what does my hero want from a) the location at hand and b) that person in particular

Step 5
Make it hard to get that thing that they want because of the person you have created. For example, your hero wants to buy a vanilla ice-cream for the girl who’s waiting for him outside. The ice-cream clerk (here’s where you make it hard) likes the same girl and decides he’s going to sabotage this gesture by….

How do you feel?

Ok now, after you’ve written the scene, consult those lists about character building and analyze your work accordingly. Adjust or amplify as you see fit, but I have a feeling, you did just fine as is.

Here are some of my favorites lists on character-building:
Character Creation: Personality Core by The Script Lab’s Michael Schilf
Five Ingredients for Great Characters that you’re not using (yet) by Screencraft
Follow Your Character’s Wants by Jacob Krueger at


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