How to Make Characters Come Alive

Or, it’s aliiiiiiive! Mwahahaha!

I’m currently busy with the character sheets for the novel Porselein I’m writing. The five sheets are taking quite a bit of time to complete as I’m being very thorough (not just for myself, but also because it is part of my writing course homework!). These characters are my main, important characters that I really need to know a lot about in order to make the story believable. I mean, it’s already fantasy, so that “willing suspension of disbelief” must be there.

Starting off with the very basics

In completing a character sheet, I normally start with the most basic elements – full name and physical description. If I have a specific face in mind, I will sometimes use a photo as reference. I’ll also use photo references to get an approximate idea of the character (as you can see from my “Ruon Chronicles” and my “Porselein” Pinterest inspiration boards). This is usually where I’ll also mention whether or not they have any birthmarks, tattoos, piercings, that kind of thing.

Start to fill in the blanks

When you start to fill in the blanks, look at things like whether they are single or not, what their family looks like, how many siblings they have (if any). By doing this, you will see that a bigger picture will start to form around the character regarding their history and their relationships with other characters and places in the story.


By starting to fill in their history – schooling or lack thereof, their deepest secrets/the most awful thing that they have ever done. What was the three biggest things to happen in their lives and why are they so important? Was your character bullied, abused, etc.? How would their history influence where they are now?


Usually by this time the personality of the character has also started coming to the fore, leaving you with the reasons why they use self-deprecating humour, etc. Start with them on a scale of introvert/extrovert and go from there.

Add lightning

That is to say, add some conflict and plot points and there you have it. A character that won’t just feel two dimensional or stereotypical. And remember – it takes practice, practice, practice!


By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.

1 comment

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: