How to write characters in fiction

Fiction Writing

Fiction writing is actually a broad category and can apply to TV, radio shows, short fiction, novellas, and of course novels. Plays and screenplays both also involve creating characters. In this article we will take a quick look at what is involved in creating good characters in your work of fiction.


When any of us read excellent fiction, the characters always stand out. Once you look, you will notice that they have enough depth to hold our interest, but are really held together by being exemplars of just a handful of traits. From a personal perspective, I find this easy to relate to because of how much I create my own images or senses of what other real people are like in a similar manner. I know there is greater depth and more detail to each of us, but often a few things are enough.

In creating characters for fiction, realize that the plot and the characters need to go together. If they don’t, you will get quite a bizarre tale or the story won’t go well because your characters are forced to act out of character much of the time in order to drive the plot forward.


What motivates your characters? Knowing any major life motive can help create the right kind of person for your story. A character may be most motivated by love or by sexual desire, or by money. One might have an intense personal passion and interest. One could be out for revenge or out to save the world. Of course, the lack of motive or unknown motives can be an intentional means of making a mysterious character.

The life motivations and what is driving the character through the story may be different. For example, one could easily have a sexually motivated life motivated character who is driven by the desire to rescue a damsel in distress while working as a police officer in a mystery novel. One could have an artist, motivated to achieve heights of personal self-expression over all but within the story line is motivated by her romantic desires in a romance novel.


Especially from the movies and television, people are somewhat conditioned about who we see and what we think. How people present themselves for work life and through other means also influence us. So do personal experience and personal preferences. In this case, personal experience includes other stories we have read or watched as plays or TV or film or even know from songs.

Making characters that look right may well come naturally. If you are a new writer, writer’s groups can be a great place to get feedback about what your own characters are like, including the question of whether or not they look right for the part.

As a writer, you have the choice to be intentionally conventional or intentionally unconventional. In reality, for most writers, leave the unconventional until after your career is established.

Tall dark and handsome still means something, but whether dark obviously means a black man or if it means a white man with dark swarthy hair depends. The characters need to fit the environment and the story line.

Other Traits

Your characters may well have professions. Whenever there is a good job match between a person and their profession, the job is a great way to showcase the identity of the character. A character that does not have a good job fit, and is not well represented by their profession may need to be shown to express that somehow – as a hobby or through volunteer work or some other means, or to have some difficulty with the job. A little dialog in bits and pieces might show the person’s colleagues expressing the ill-fitting nature of the job or that something about the person or situation is peculiar or even wrong.

Other qualities that may not be too difficult to express in written fiction: savvy, fear, courage timidity, enthusiasm, unforgiving, kind, impatient, persistent, inconsistent.


The relationship between characterization and plot is so intimate because what your characters do in response to each event is determined by who they are. As simplistic as it sounds it is that the plot of a story and the characters are interdependent.

Dialog within a story is a great way to give your characters more opportunities to express their identities to the readers while also driving the plot of the story forward.

Any other form of intimacy that occurs within the story can be used to reveal the character of the characters – silly as that sounds.

Of course, the secrecy and uncertainty people have about who other people really are is often used in writing. In many mysteries and thrillers the villain is someone who, on the surface, does not appear to be of the same character that he or she really is. In comic book hero stories, the villain is often open and well known for who he or she really is.


Integral to every written work of art involving people and an active story line are characters. The art of creating and portraying characters through the written word is an important part of being a writer and of every story. Some of it may come naturally, but a lot of it can also be learned. Just remember that your plot and your characters need each other.

To see how I did it in an urban novel, just click on the link : The Double Life of Tutweiler Buckhead

Indianapolis, Indiana – the setting of The Double Life of Tutweiler Buckhead

Now that I haven’t been living in Indianapolis for a while my perspective of it has changed.  I am looking forward to returning there this year – whether for good or for a few weeks of a visit is not clear at this writing…You may have heard the dictum to writers to write what they know. 

Indianapolis is bigger city than most people live in.  In terms of size it is so big that it is really is a big city.  For those used to the giant cities – I tend to use the comic book term Megalopolis, Indianapolis is not on the same scale.  It is one of the biggest of the way smaller cities in the world. 

Most people know Indy for the Indy 500.  Authors may be challenged here because they often think Indy means ‘independent book store, or publisher or independent publishing’ .  Indy is the short nickname for Indianapolis.  The city has two other main terms of endearment, so to speak: the old one is Nap Town, and it is also called the Circle City “Crossroads of the Midwest”.  For those on the Coasts, that may not mean much, but for those who do live in vast expanses of the Midwest, Indy’s ability to move goods is so important that there is a statue of Mercury – in his role as a the god of trade, rising up in Monument Circle of a well kept, stylish downtown central circle. 

Indianapolis is ‘diverse’.  More than 15% of the population is African-American and the Black History Museum is so cherished that even Presidents have traveled to Indy to visit it.  The majority population is some type of Caucasian with the ethnic Germans with the ethnic Irish, and ethnic Mexican being other fairly common ethnic groups.  There are also people from India, and many other parts of the world.

Given the true nature of the city, the characters in The Double Life of Tutweiler Buckhead are not all the same class or race or in the exact same line of work.  None of the characters are cheap imitations of living people.  I know that may sound trite, but sometimes authors do use one real person heavily in a fiction character.  I usually don’t.  Most of my characters are like 4 real people and one or two other fictional characters invented by other real people mixed into a new and unique blend.  Every reader probably does know someone who shares at least one or two traits of each character and no one is like any of them – in that respect it is similar to real life. 

The Mayor is young, the Sheriff is a big “black” man who’s first name is Master, the Priest is young and blonde, and the lawyer is the team leader and an occultist.  There are a few important women in the story but I’ll share more about that another time. 

The inspiration behind characters

Yesterday, those of you who regularly know that I wrote about one of the characters in the novel An Adventure in Indianapolis. 

In real life, I was inspired to name the character Talitha by a real person.  For a few months I worked caring for a teen who had unusual difficulties.  I liked her.  She needed a very serene atmosphere in order to achieve more – apparently all too easily overstimulated in certain ways.  I liked her anyways – and even though I knew her because of my job.  Her first name is Talitha.  I named the fictional character after her.  It is meant to be a compliment.  She doesn’t even know that I have done it.

Urban crime fiction set in Middle America

Urban crime fiction set in Middle America

Who is reading ebooks these days?  More people every day.  Do you have a Kindle?  If so, then you can use it to find a clever adventurous tale of how a city saves itself from itself – in a sense.  Maybe you don’t think that way – a lot of the time, I don’t either.  Every location has its own good and bad points.  Every fiction story relies on something connected to reality in some way – the connection may be thin or weak, but it is still there. 

Real life is about team work despite how competitive life can be.  That truth is high lighted in An Adventure in Indianapolis aka The Double Life of Tutweiler Buckhead.  Those who like group efforts will enjoy the unconventional approach in this novel.  There is not just one sleuth.  It really takes all 4 people to solve the crime, and they are working with others. 

If you’re interested, but don’t want to use an ebook reader, please pre-order yours from Alethia Publishing now:

Yikes – what happened?

[looks flustered] Sorry all of you about last night – your yesterday if you are in North America.  In truth, I hardly used the Internet at all compared to some days and then I became engrossed with other activities.  I remembered when I went to bed, but decided to hold off on blogging again until the next day.  I felt bad about it only because it gives me so much hope that you are reading this and that more than one of you are a fairly regular or very consistent reader.

What I can tell you is that I actually really worked on a Gezka & Kiel novel.  This is easy in some ways and very challenging in other ways because in actual fact I wrote the first 2 drafts of this novel when I was 20 to 22 years old.  I will now turn 45 in just 3 weeks and I am still needing to get these novels out.  I attribute the majority of the delay to my communication problems – asking for help from funders, and to the devastation of my first big experience with cohabitation and marriage.  That relationship being ruined destabilized my life terribly.  What I can tell you is that all I did was manage to quit smoking cigarettes for a few days and all Hell began to break loose.

Today, my son is here.  We are between Christmas and New Year’s.  I have not completely learned how Germans open and close stores in relation to these holidays.  Yesterday I went out thinking maybe they had reopened, but they had not.  However, I know that they will be open some of the days between these holidays but don’t know.  In truth, the obvious thing to do is either go out exploring and find out or knock on a neighbor’s door and ask and learn it.  This is one of those situations where I feel a little awkward because even though that is clearly the correct answer, I probably will not even handle it that way.

Yesterday I did read in German, but it was literally a tiny children’s book about hedgehogs.  I have learned more, and have devised a fairly practical self-education program.  When I have learned enough of it, I will sign up to take the government’s test for a specific level.  I have learned the TELC language level codes.  Before 2011 or so, I did not know that.

Hope you are all having a wonderful day.  Learning how and where to provide talks and book signings here in Germany to market the books should be both fun and challenging.  English books for sale by American author who speaks conversational level German but isn’t really fluent.  [strange smile, but not as bad as the one Wednesday Addams had to find after having been subjected to like 18 hours of Disney films in the Happy Hut for having been a downer to the other campers and staff at Summer Camp].

Today’s Pickins’

Uranian Fiction

Welcome to Uranian Fiction!   

                                   An Adventure

in Indianapolis

                                                  by Miriam Pia

The Sheriff of Marion County is fed up with a local villain.  With only half of what he needs to make a bust, his hands are tied by the law.  Frustrated, and desperate for help, the Sheriff turns to the Mayor. 

How do a Father, a career burglar, an attorney and a bounty hunter team up to unravel the mystery of a local white collar drug dealer?  

Find out in this extraordinary tale of unlikely team work and a little magic set just next door to the real Indianapolis!


You can buy this novel here in PDF format, through the Store.

To buy an electronic version for your Kindle, use the following link: 

Regular edition of An Adventure in Indianapolis