Young Writers Society

Home » Forums » Resources » Writing Tips

Character Personality [Question]

User avatar
72 Reviews

Gender: Female
Points: 704
Reviews: 72
Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:04 pm
Moo says...

How do you guys figure out character personalities? Sometimes it's something I have no trouble with and others I find it more difficult. I'm having this problem at the moment and wondered whether anyone could help. :3 I'm currently working on a novel that recently dramatically changed in setting, characters and plot. I adore the new working of it, and I'm postitive I want to use it. But it was necessary for the MC's to change. I've got my FMC entirely figured out personality wise, but the MC not so much. I have a basic idea, but I want to flesh him out a bit more.

So, what are your tips on beefing out a character's personality? :D Someone suggested that I just write and the character will come along... but well, I've done that before and got dull, wooden characters for my efforts. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. :D

As another little sneaky question, I'm also sort of stuck on a name for another female character I have. Again, I'd love some suggestions. She's fairly independent, fiesty and boyish if I was to sum her up in three words. It would need to fit in with the contrains of the world the novel is set in. If you want an idea the other character's names are Jagash, Tilt, Kageen... things like that. Nothing average or... human. o.e

I think I'm done now. Thanks in advance. ^_^
“Poetry is old, ancient, goes back far. It is among the oldest of living things. So old it is that no man knows how and why the first poems came.”

--Carl Sandburg

User avatar
1265 Reviews

Gender: Other
Points: 91649
Reviews: 1265
Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:02 pm
Rosendorn says...

What got me hitting some more character personalities were games in Writing Activities. Stuff like the Character Answer Game and What Would Your Character Do? helped me a lot.

Another thing that really helped was figuring out the bulk of my character's backstory. Personalities are formed from past experience and attitudes, so figuring out a bit of history helped me a ton. It's the only way I've been able to get rid of my character split personality disorder.
A writer is a world trapped in a person— Victor Hugo

Ink is blood. Paper is bandages. The wounded press books to their heart to know they're not alone.

#TNT powered reviews

User avatar
519 Reviews

Gender: Female
Points: 21410
Reviews: 519
Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:30 am
Lauren2010 says...

Gosh I wish I hadn't taken the book from my last creative writing class home... We'll see what I can remember.

Effective characters have a few basic attributes. They're complex, they have desire, they have contrast, and they should change.

Complexity and contrast are on the same lines and deal mostly with personality. When shaping a personality, you want to think of real people. Real people are complex, they have likes and dislikes and characteristics that sometimes contrast. Like say, you have a thug of a character raised on the streets but he has a deep love for classic literature. What Rosey said about backstory has a lot to do with personality. Say this character loves classic literature because when he was young he spent time around an elderly woman who taught him to read with the only books she had which were classic literature. This could be one of his only positive childhood memories, so it has a lasting impact. Be creative and look at the qualities that make people you know who they are, then fashion your characters in similar manners.

Desire is pretty basic, but without it you have a very dull character. This goes along with plot a lot, but pretty much you want your character to have a strong central desire. What do they want? It can be as concrete as to return home, or as abstract as to find happiness. We did an exercise in class where we had to write a short story with a cigarette lighter as a physical symbol of a character's desire, it was pretty interesting.

Lastly, your character should come through the story changed. This is best exhibited through coming-of-age stories but is apparent in any good character. It tends to come naturally as the story progresses, but it is important. Though that's more of an end thing rather than a character building thing. ;)

Alright I'm done rambling, haha. Hope I was of some help; and I have no idea for names..sorry!
Got YWS?

User avatar

Gender: Male
Points: 1126
Reviews: 1
Sat Jan 22, 2011 4:57 am
Colditz says...

How do you guys figure out character personalities

The method that works best for me is: I first think of a character that has a single or few particular traits that I will need in order move along the plot conflict. I then write a scene that puts the character in a situation that brings these traits to light and that forwards the plot. It helps me get a feel for what that character or this character would actually do given a certain situation that has important consequences.

It is even better if the scene involves another character that has traits that contrast with that of the original character in question or in some way highlights the character's important traits. If I can show my character actively engadging someone else or a situation that highlights their personality, then I would consider that character better developed than had I just said "Okay Ralph is always anxious, he should do anxious things."

I usually don't make long lists and desriptions of characters for the simple fact that I will never actually need them in my stories. No matter how much I care about little jonny's terrible childhood, unless it is immediately relevant to the plot or character development I wouldnt bother with it.

So for example, say Ralph, a boy of twelve years or so is about to go fishing at the nearby creek in the forest with his friend Tim.

In this story, Ralph's main character trait is that he is overly adventurous and takes too many risks. (because to further the plot I need a way for the boys to get into trouble)

I further develop Ralph's personality by putting the boys in a situation that displays Ralph's reckless behavior.

example scene:

The two boys sat side by side for an hour or so with thier lures in the water, but then Ralph turned to Tim and said "Why do we always just go to this same spot over and over again? Let's go see what's over the next hill."

"I don't think we should do that, you know its getting dark soon and we can't get back too late" replied Tim.

"Don't be such a wuss! Lets go! Its an adventure Tim!" exclaimed Ralph as he put down his fighing pole and begun to trounce through the creek to the opposite bank.

Ralph begun to climb the hill but then turned around to Tim, who still sat by the creek, and said "Well are you coming or what?"
"For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life" - Albert Camus

Don't Panic!

User avatar
17 Reviews

Gender: Female
Points: 1040
Reviews: 17
Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:55 pm
emmaline49 says...

Usually it comes to me right away, as soon as I decide on a name. I know that's not helpful, though, so here are a few tips:
1.) Try looking online for names and their meanings. For example, Kendra means "all-knowing" so maybe Kendra would be a very knowledgeable character.
2.) Deciding on physical appearance sometimes helps, too. If they're a redhead, maybe you'd like them to fit the stereotype and be very hot-tempered. Or maybe you'd like them to be the exact opposite!
I hope that helps. :)
In the midst of winter/I found there lay within me/an eternal summer

Adventure is worthwhile.
— Aesop