As a fiction writer, one of your primary goals is to create characters that are not only believable but also compelling. Compelling characters are those that resonate with readers, make them care about the story and invest in the character’s journey. These are the characters that stick with readers long after they’ve finished reading the book. In this article, we’ll explore the art of creating compelling characters in fiction writing.

Why Compelling Characters Matter

Compelling characters are essential to any work of fiction because they draw readers in and keep them engaged. When readers care about the characters, they are more invested in the story, more likely to keep reading, and more likely to recommend the book to others. Compelling characters can also help readers connect with the themes of the story, relate to the character’s struggles, and even gain new insights into their own lives.

Creating Compelling Characters: The Basics

The first step in creating compelling characters is to understand that characters are not just names on a page. They are people with personalities, histories, and motivations. To create compelling characters, you need to go beyond the surface details and delve deeper into their psyche. Here are some basics to consider when creating your characters:

The Art of Creating Compelling Characters in Fiction Writing - Creating Compelling Characters: The Basics
The Art of Creating Compelling Characters in Fiction Writing – Creating Compelling Characters: The Basics

Give them a backstory: Every character has a past that has shaped who they are today. By giving your characters a backstory, you can create a sense of depth and complexity that will make them more interesting to readers.

Create a compelling motivation: Your characters need a reason to take action, and that reason should be compelling. It can be a desire, a goal, a fear, or a need, but it should be something that drives them and makes them relatable to readers.

Develop their personality: Characters with unique personalities are more interesting to read about. Consider their likes, dislikes, quirks, and flaws to make them more human and relatable.

Show, don’t tell: Instead of simply describing your characters, show their personalities through their actions, dialogue, and interactions with other characters.

Creating Memorable Protagonists

Your protagonist is the main character of your story, and as such, they need to be compelling and memorable. Here are some tips for creating a protagonist that readers will remember:

Give them a relatable flaw: Flaws make characters more human and relatable. Your protagonist should have a flaw that readers can identify with and root for them to overcome.

Make them active: Your protagonist should be driving the action of the story, rather than just reacting to events around them.

Give them a strong motivation: Your protagonist’s motivation should be clear and compelling, driving them through the story and giving readers a reason to invest in their journey.

Show their growth: Over the course of the story, your protagonist should grow and change, learning important lessons and developing as a character.

Creating Memorable Antagonists

Antagonists are often overlooked when it comes to character development, but they are just as important as protagonists in creating a compelling story. Here are some tips for creating a memorable antagonist:

Creating Memorable Antagonists
Creating Memorable Antagonists

Make them more than just “evil”: Antagonists should be more than just one-dimensional villains. They should have their own motivations and backstories that make them more complex and interesting.

Give them a reason: Your antagonist should have a reason for their actions, even if readers don’t agree with them. This will make them more believable and interesting to read about.

Show their humanity: Even the most villainous characters have human qualities. Showing your antagonist’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses can make them more relatable and interesting.

Create conflict: The conflict between your protagonist and antagonist should be at the heart of your story. Make sure that their motivations and goals are in direct opposition to each other to create compelling.

Creating Compelling Supporting Characters

Supporting characters play a vital role in any story, providing context and depth to the protagonist’s journey. Here are some tips for creating compelling supporting characters:

Give them a distinct personality: Supporting characters should have their own distinct personalities, quirks, and motivations. This makes them more interesting to read about and adds depth to the story.

Make them necessary: Every supporting character should have a specific purpose in the story, whether it’s to help the protagonist achieve their goals or to create conflict and tension.

Show their backstory: Supporting characters should have a backstory that explains their motivations and gives them depth. This backstory can be revealed slowly over the course of the story, making the character more interesting as the reader learns more about them.

Avoid stereotypes: Supporting characters should not be stereotypes or one-dimensional. Instead, they should be fully fleshed-out characters that add to the richness of the story.

Bringing Characters to Life

Once you’ve created your characters, it’s important to bring them to life on the page. Here are some tips for making your characters feel real:

The Art of Creating Compelling Characters in Fiction Writing - Bringing Characters to Life
The Art of Creating Compelling Characters in Fiction Writing – Bringing Characters to Life
  1. Use sensory details: Sensory details can bring a scene to life, and they can also help readers imagine what your characters look, sound, and smell like.
  2. Give them unique dialogue: Each character should have their own unique way of speaking. This can be achieved through word choice, sentence structure, and dialect.
  3. Show their emotions: Characters should not be emotionless. They should feel a range of emotions throughout the story, and those emotions should be shown through their actions and reactions.
  4. Use body language: Body language can be just as important as dialogue in revealing a character’s thoughts and emotions. Use body language to show how your characters are feeling and reacting to the world around them.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

When creating characters, there are some common pitfalls that you should avoid. Here are a few:

Creating “Mary Sues”: A Mary Sue is a character that is too perfect and has no flaws. This can make them boring and unrelatable. Make sure your characters have flaws and make mistakes.

Making characters too similar: Each character should be distinct and have their own unique personality. If your characters all sound and act the same, it can be confusing and dull for the reader.

Creating characters solely for plot purposes: Every character should have a specific purpose in the story, but they should also be interesting and well-developed. Don’t create characters solely for the purpose of advancing the plot.

Focusing too much on physical description: While physical description can be important, it should not be the only thing that defines a character. Make sure to focus on personality and motivation as well.


Creating compelling characters is an essential part of fiction writing. By giving your characters a backstory, a compelling motivation, a unique personality, and showing rather than telling, you can create characters that readers will care about and remember long after they’ve finished reading the book. By avoiding common pitfalls and bringing your characters to life on the page, you can create a story that resonates with readers and leaves a lasting impression.

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