How To Create Great Characters in Fiction Writing

stephen King
Stephen King

I don’t know about you but I read books mainly for entertainment and relaxation.  But another reason I read books and lots of them is that I want to see how other established writers deal with their characters especially the main character.

For me and I think this is true for many readers; when I am getting absorbed reading a novel my attention is that much sharper and keener if I am hooked on the main character! Put it this way, are you going to be bothered what happens to a character who you think is lukewarm anyway? Are you going to stay up nights reading, willing that character on and hoping that they will get out of whatever pickle they are in, if you don’t feel that strongly for them?  No, I don’t think so!

So what makes people like me and I hope you see strong characters in books almost like they are real people and not the figment of a good writer’s imagination?

The short answer to this is, many things.  First of all, when you are in the conception stage of a novel; you have got an idea and maybe a main character is swilling around your head, think on this. Who are the people you know that stand out for whatever reason?  It could be their great looks, their hearty laugh? It could be a physical trait such as flaming red hair, or they are extra tall or very petite.  It doesn’t matter as long as it makes them different.  Well, this is the sort of observation you need to bring to your draft during the formation of great characters.

For example, Martina Cole’s Dangerous Lady, the main character Maura Ryan, was the only girl who had a bunch of brothers.  She was tall and was the last child making her the baby of the family.  So this main protagonist in my view stood out for a number of reasons.  So when she goes on to be the head of that crime family, the plot is unusual but credible and you can’t wait to see what is going to happen next. All the while you are rooting for her because she is a prominent figure in what is typically a man’s world.

The whole point of good fiction is that it should leave you wanting more. Hence why big-name writers like Martina Cole, Danielle Steel and Stephen King for instance have a impressive back catalogue.  And the clever thing is you are going to remember their characters more than the plot.


You are drafting this great novel.  Spend a lot of time on your characters starting with your main character and then the minor ones. Note down as much detail as you can about them including physical attributes, personality traits, their family background, social class, everything you can think of.  It doesn’t mean you have to include it all in your finished draft, but you need to know.

Make this character larger than life, with some larger than life problems to overcome. Like I said before, no one wants lukewarm you want your main character be believable which will take you ever closer to penning that page-turner!

Finally, let your writing flow and let your main character tell you what they want to do next! And that’s the magic of drafting great fictional characters…

Until next time, Happy Writing, S

Published by Sharon's Writers Tidbits

Sharon is a writer who lives in north London and has a long-held passion for the art and craft of creative writing. Sharon's main interests are novels, short stories and poetry. She also enjoys writing non-fiction. She is an avid reader and has a threatening TBR pile of books!

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