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Developing Strong Characters

Whether you are creating strong characters for a film, video game, or other creative project, you need to make sure they appeal to your audience. It is easy to develop the basic traits of a flat character, and characters like these that often meet stereotypes take little creative investment. However, to create characters that are memorable, you must become comfortable developing characters that are round. A round character is one that has a fully developed personality. Instead of the one dimensional feelings and motivations of a flat character, a round character has conflicting desires, hopes, dreams, fears, and motivations.

When you create round characters, you create endless possibilities for interactions between the characters in your medium. With flat characters, interactions are limited because of the limited information available about the character’s personality. Round characters are real people that your audience can relate to and develop feelings for. These are the characters that keep them coming back for more.

To create a successful round character, you will need to make many decisions about his or her backstory and life. Everyone knows to draft the basics about their character’s main physical and personality traits, but here are several deeper essential questions that can lead you to create the next Harry Potter or Dean Winchester:


  1. What does your character do in his or her free time?

Unlike personality traits that only give you the most obvious information about a person, knowing how that person spends his or her leisure time gives you great insight. For example, you may know that you want your character to have a competitive streak. However, the differences between a competitive bowler and a competitive surfboarder are limitless. Likewise, you may know that you want your character to be giving. Someone that volunteers to work at a sporting event is a much different person that someone who volunteers in a local homeless shelter. Knowing these important things about your characters can help guide you in making subtle tweaks in their character development that will make them believable.


  1. Where is your character from?

Regional, and even local differences, in dialect, customs, beliefs, and backgrounds can shape a person immensely. If you know that your character was raised in a small, southern town in Texas that will lead you to a much different place than if he or she was raised in a small town in rural Minnesota. Everything from the foods they like to the weather they are accustomed to will likely differ. The experiences they had as children will be different. Their friends, the parties they have attended, and virtually every other experience that has shaped who they are is some way influenced by their surroundings. Your character’s geographic history is extremely important.


  1. What is your character’s worst fear?

Birds. Clowns. Aliens. Lightning. Knowing the thing that your character is most afraid of will provide you with not only an extremely interesting back story as to how they developed the fear, it will also be a consideration that will shape some of the character’s experiences in your work. A character with a fear of heights isn’t going to be riding a rollercoaster or flying without great inner turmoil. Exploring a human emotion like fear is a great way to have your audience relate to your character.