The key to making developed characters

I am a writer. You could have probably easily guessed that from me having a profile on Medium. However, I have made countless short stories (both finished and unfinished) involving characters, carrying different types of character traits (illness, religious preferences, orientation, sex, gender identification, etc).

You want to know what the key is to making a well developed character? Don’t make them revolve around one trait of theirs.

Too many times, across all media (TV, movies, comic books, etc.) have I seen characters be all about one trait of theirs, and never about anything else. A good example of this is sexual orientation. Too many times I have seen writers write characters as: “I am gay! Look how gay I am! Look at all this stereotypical gay stuff I do! Guess what? I’m gay!” It honestly makes you roll your eyes.

A character, at its core, is a reflection of our human activities and emotions. It is made from inspirations of what we experience in real life. Make them reflect everyday thoughts and feelings.

My favorite trick to developing characters, is to pretend I am going to give an in-depth interview with them. This forces writers to really think about different aspects of their characters.

Some good example questions to ask your character:

  • How was your home life like, growing up?
  • Was religion a big part of your life? Is it now? How does it influence you?
  • How many friends do you have? Do you hang out with them often?
  • What is your favorite movie genre? Do you like TV?
  • Did you grow up with pets? Do you have a favorite animal?
  • Did you ever have a romantic relationship with someone? Did you ever try anything sexual?
  • Have you had a one night stand? Are you interested in “alternative” human sexuality things? (such as BDSM?)
  • Do you have any fears? Do you have any unusual phobias or repulsions?
  • How do you view counseling? Do you feel the need to go? Are you currently (or ever have been) on any kind of medication (for the mind, and/or the body?)
  • Have you ever had a life altering experience? How did you deal with it? Do you think it still affects you?
  • Have you ever been married? Have you ever had children? If you are interested in having children, has the thought of fostering and/or adoption ever crossed your mind?
  • What do you consider your own sexual orientation? Have you ever really thought about it?
  • How would you family describe you? How would strangers and/or acquaintances view you?
  • Do you have any hobbies? Are you good at making things (such as crafts)?
  • Who is your biggest inspiration?
  • What deity (or deities) do you worship, if any?

This is by no means an all-encompassing list, but it is good start to really make you think about all of the ins-and-outs of your character.