Free writing course - Lesson 2 Creating Characters

Free Short Story Writing Course – Characters

Creative Writing, Free Writing Course

Lesson 2 Part 2 Creating Characters

This free writing course concentrates on writing short stories. Start at the beginning – Lesson 1

In Creative Writing – The Myths we looked at writing what you know. Need inspiration for your characters? Think about your friends and people you know. What makes you like them, what do you find endearing or irritating?

Is it because of who they were? The schools they attended? Traumas they survived before you knew them? In effect, their backstory.

None of these makes you like someone.

Remember when you first met them (on the first page of your story) you liked them for the things they did and said. As you got to know them you saw their quirks and personalities and began to emphasise with them.

To discover who your characters are, answer these questions for each of them (if you think about your friends you could probably answer the majority of these for them):

  • What do they want? Why do they want this?
  • What are they most afraid of? (they may not even realize that they have this fear)
  • What is their most strongly held value or belief?
  • What motivates them?
  • What emotion most rules their behaviour and decisions? E.g. Fear, hope, embarrassment, pride, regret, love.
  • What is their strongest attribute? What is their biggest flaw?
  • Everyone has problems. What problems do they have?


Establish empathy by creating small scenes where things happen to them like any other person. They struggle to get out of bed in the morning, lose their keys and try to drink coffee that is too hot.

Don’t add create swathes of text – just drop in little nuggets as the story progresses.

Even if your character is a villain there still needs to be little touches that make them human – the reader still needs to have some empathy with them. Avoid reams of backstory or dialogue explaining why they are the way they are.


Only include elements of a character’s backstory if they are relevant to your story. In The Mail Run we learn a little about Guy’s backstory – being shot down early in the war, the death of his crew and is injuries because it is relevant to the action. The reader does not need to know where he went to school, whether his parents are still alive and if he is married.

Read more of my short stories and articles on Medium


What Many Writers Don’t Understand About Character Development

Stephen King on Writing

Understanding Characterisation

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