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How to Build A Character: 6 Tips to Creating Your Main Character

You have the perfect idea for a new story. Being able to see your story, even if it’s only composed in a few short sentences is perfect as a starting point. Now, it’s time to start getting your character ideas onto paper (or a computer screen). Who is the main character who is telling the tale?

Beginning with a great main character allows your story to take shape faster and helps you build writing momentum. I started writing when I was 8 and have learned more along the way with each new book. Let’s look at how to build a character:

Creating Your Character

Consider the first thought, but don’t ALWAYS take it.

So now that you have an idea of the story, who’s it about? You may think you have the perfect character, but what if you chose an unexpected character?

Consider what the tone of the characters and setting will convey. What is it that you want to bring across to your readers? Would this character you’ve begun to create be a light-hearted class clown that always finds the levity in each of the crazy situations they find themselves in? Will this be the stern and stoic fixture, always seeming to brood and plan?

Even though it can be tempting to stick with the first character, take time to consider who your main character will be.

What Sparks Them?

What’s the inciting incident that gets the story started?

In every memorable story, the character experiences a moment that changes their world from the one they’ve known. Take for instance Harry Potter, when Harry learns of his parents’ past as famous wizards and witches – or the Hunger Games – when Katniss’s sister is called on to take part in the ceremony. These are turning points to start the story and help us understand how the character will react as events unfold.

Then you can outline your story and their main emotion/reaction at that point to help guide you as you write. Each moment doesn’t need to be a life and death affair (heartbreak or a grieving process can have just as much impact on a story). The goal is to have what I think of as a mile marker moment to keep in mind as the story progresses.

How Does the Story’s Setting Influence Them?

The scenery can have a big impact on your character. You can create a complete fantasy land like the World of Hogwarts or make magical moments happen in a town based on your real-life. Or perhaps a city like New York or Los Angeles (some of my favorite places). All of these settings can provide the space needed to fit in the story you’ve begun to write.

When setting the scene outline, focus on which New York you’re choosing to set this story in? Turn of the century, hustling and bustling? Futuristic fashion setting in SoHo? What can the setting mean for the character you’re creating? As a writer, your backdrop for your character helps to create the character themselves.

Feeling Stuck?

Don’t feel disheartened by the writing process, many writers have struggled to write. I believe in you! Helpful resources like the character development questionnaire are a great starting point when you feel that you’re becoming stuck. Or you can try an activity away from your book to help you like:

These help you let go of the pressure and just write! Even a few sentences can be enough to keep you on track for what you’re envisioning but be sure that the direction you are looking to go is clear in those sentences. Remember: the details will come and you may even change them later as you edit your story.

Tell Your Story with Character

I hope you enjoyed this read, now let your imagination take you away and get to work on your next character! With these six tips, you should be able to have a starting point from which to create your story you’ve decided to tell.

If you’d like to see how Clara developed in The Kingdom of the Lizards, get a copy of my first book today. For more tips and suggestions from Katrina Kusa on music, writing, and acting check out my other blogs.


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