There are sparks of inspiration all around us. Yet, without the proper tools and techniques to develop them, they’re just sparks.
I’m sure you once had a flood of character ideas that now exist only in your memory.
Continue reading to learn how to create fictional characters effectively, how AI tools can help, and much more!
What Are Character Ideas?
When you develop fictional character ideas, you combine character concepts relevant to your work. These elements should be present in your characters to help make them unique.
Consequently, these ideas are frequently made up of the character’s personality, backstory, general appearance, distinctive physical features, character quirks, role in the story, the story’s theme, and more.
Remember that having a complete picture of your characters will make describing them easier. A well-rounded character not only helps to bring your story to life but also empowers it.
That said, I wish I could say there’s a straight path for generating character ideas. Sadly, there isn’t – all roads are winding, but they tend to make for a scenic drive, so buckle up!
The starting point is your inspiration, which can come from various sources. It could be from real-life people, yourself, or simply your imagination.
But, as we all know, when we start putting our story ideas on paper, things can get a little messy. Several blanks may appear in our characters, making it difficult for us to picture them.
That’s why I always recommend starting with a character archetype to lay the groundwork for your inspiration.
Common Character Archetypes
Character archetypes are a fantastic tool to use when creating characters. They help keep your creative juices in check so that your characters appear relatable and recognizable to readers.
Archetypes are personas with a predetermined set of attributes and descriptions that most people are familiar with. Therefore, using them enables the audience to connect with your characters quickly.
Take a look at these six common character archetypes:
Hero or Protagonist
Almost every story sings, “I need a hero,” as Bonnie Tyler did in her epic song. The protagonist in any plot is someone who stands up to adversity in the hopes of making things better – they’re usually the main characters.
- Strengths: Physical strength, bravery, perseverance, honor
- Shortcomings: Arrogance, idealism, recklessness
In literature, there are different types of heroes. For example, an Everyman hero is a regular person who transforms into a heroic character, like Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spiderman.
Then there are the epic heroes inspired by mythology and have superhuman abilities, such as Thor.
Villain or Nemesis Figure
A hero needs a villain or nemesis to add conflict to a story and spice it up. The villain could be a complex character with superpowers or simply a bully.
- Strengths: Cleverness, power, determination
- Shortcomings: Deception, greed, egoism
You should note that two major factors influence the development of successful villain characters.
The first is to have them relate to the hero in some way.
There should be a series of events leading to the realization that their fates were once intertwined. In Tim Burton’s Batman, for example, viewers were shocked to learn that the Joker killed Batman’s parents.
The second factor is molding the villains into worthy opponents. This makes a story far more interesting and has the effect of glamorizing the hero.
Anti-Hero or Antagonist
Antagonists are like roadblocks in the protagonist’s path, but they aren’t always the villains. However, the antagonists’ personalities are often similar to those of the villains; they share many strengths, weaknesses, and character quirks.
Both the hero and anti-hero characters go on to present the good and bad in us, which makes them relatable to readers.
The film The Hunger Games displayed this relationship well. The hero, Katniss Everdeen, faced other contestants – some good and some evil – but in either case, they were simply antagonists and not the story’s true villain.
In most stories, there’s a character whose job is to guide, teach, or protect the protagonist. This person is known as the mentor or sage.
Mentors are characters who have a distinct set of skills, knowledge, or past experience, which they share with the hero to help them grow wiser or stronger so as to overcome the obstacles in the plot.
- Strengths: Wisdom, patience, insight, selflessness
- Shortcomings: Passive, wary, hesitant
A mentor can be a teacher, best friend, mother, or someone else. They frequently become our favorite characters because of their intellect and compassion.
Consider Gandalf from Lord of the Rings or Ben Kenobi from Star Wars to understand what a typical sage looks like.
Love Interests (Romantic, Platonic, and Fictional)
Then, when you need to add a dash of emotion to your story, it’s time to create love interests. They’ll portray the beauty and sometimes tragedy of relationships.
- Strengths: Passion, affection, devotion
- Shortcomings: Jealousy, obsession, irrationality
Love interests can be the romantic love the protagonist seeks, but they’re not limited to that. These characters can also display the love of friendships, families, religion, and more.
Therefore, sometimes they’ll portray a passionate relationship of young lovers, as in Romeo and Juliet. Other times, they’ll represent the protective love of sisterhood, such as between Anna and Elsa in Frozen.
Supporting Cast Characters (Friends, Family, Allies)
The supporting characters are the ones who give a story a place to call home. They’re the protagonist’s safe haven when things go south, which, believe it or not, is exactly what a reader looks for during the story’s dark times.
These other characters provide comfort and solutions to the main character and can take various forms. They can be family members, coworkers, friends, and so on.
- Strengths: Supportive, self-reliant, nurturing
- Shortcomings: Skeptic, isolated
As you write these characters, think of the movie Wonder and how Auggie’s parents were his go-to whenever he felt down and needed advice.
How to Develop Fictional Characters
It’s time to put your initial ideas into words and develop your fictional characters. Developing characters entails giving them depth by adding personality, quirks, goals, and so on to round them out.
In other words, it’s upping your writing skills through the process of generating ideas that’ll make characters more relatable to readers.
You’ll need to pay closer attention to this process, especially when writing about dynamic characters. How they change throughout your story or novel must feel natural rather than forced.
Here are the three major steps in character development to help you get started on your imaginative journey:
Step 1: Choose the Right Details
After you’ve settled on an archetype for your character, you’ll need to add unique details for the sake of its originality.
Consider the details of the character from the inside out. This means that the character’s appearance should be your last stop. We can use physical features to help describe a character’s personality, so it’s best to save them for last.
Thinking about the connection I want the reader to have with the characters always helps me meticulously craft their details.
Assume I’m writing about a mentor archetype. I want readers to have faith in the character’s wisdom and experience.
So, age is one of the first details I’ll consider. A person with a wealth of knowledge should be older, so if I described a 10-year-old mentor in this context, it wouldn’t be as convincing.
The more you explore the impact you want your character to have on readers, the more details will emerge, such as experience, goals, and intention.
Step 2: Create a Backstory
You might think a backstory is essential for the reader to connect with the character, but it’s more important to the writer.
When you start writing a backstory for your characters, it becomes much easier to interpret their behavior and generate ideas for their actions. It’s as if you get to know their past and where they’re coming from so well that writing about them feels natural.
Always take your time developing your character’s backstory because it’ll greatly influence their fears, weaknesses, quirks, traits, and even physical characteristics.
Step 3: Establish Personality Traits
Last but not least, you’ll need to pinpoint the main traits of your characters that will guide their behavior throughout the course of your story.
Choose the personality traits wisely, as they’re the character’s tools in making decisions, dealing with conflicts, and other similar defining scenarios.
Above all, don’t forget to include character flaws in the mix so that readers find them believable.
It’s all about balancing the good and the bad in a story character. The ratio of one may increase in a specific role, but both sides have to be present.
Creating Original Character Ideas
When you create characters, you want them to stand out in the reader’s mind. That’s a significant part of what makes a story memorable. The following points are your shortcut to getting there:
Brainstorming Techniques for Developing Unique Character Concepts
There are three brainstorming strategies that I find extremely helpful in creating an interesting character concept:
1. Free Writing
Set aside some time to write down whatever comes to mind about your characters without stopping.
By expressing your ideas freely, you’ll reveal unexpected details that deepen the complexity of your character.
Treat your characters as real people to get to know them on different levels.
You can act as if you’re talking to them on a date or an interview. Keep asking questions that reveal aspects of their personality that are mysterious to you.
3. Personality Tests
Take personality tests as if you were the character. This will give a better idea of their characteristics and tendencies. A test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a good place to start.
Knowing your characters’ personality types will set the tone for the rest of their qualities, from strengths to weaknesses and more.
Using AI to Spark Creativity and Encourage Exploration of New Ideas
There are a few AI tools for fiction writers that are simply a treat to use. Novel Factory, for example, is a writing software that can help you write a full manuscript while also providing a character management feature.
Sudowrite also has an excellent character generator tool.
Incorporating Real-Life Inspiration Into Your Characters
Once you’ve embraced the concept of drawing inspiration from real life, you’ll never look back. This is one of the richest sources of original ideas for writers. You can get an authentic vision of how your characters should act simply by observing your friends or family members.
Pick anyone close to you and analyze their actions and behaviors in various contexts. For instance, take note of how they behave in happy or emotionally charged situations.
In the end, you’ll realize that you possess a wealth of insights to help you develop a unique character concept that readers believe in.
Using AI to Generate Character Ideas
If you’re still at the beginning and struggling to come up with character writing ideas, the following AI tools can help:
Sudowrite is my favorite AI story generator and AI character generator for fiction authors. It is AI writing software that focuses specifically on the needs of creative writers.
When you buy Sudowrite through the links on this page, you’ll get 10,000 words added to your account at no additional cost to you!
Jasper is one of the most powerful content generators available. It can assist you in putting together personality traits to create relatable, multidimensional characters.
If you’re unsure about their names, delegate this task to Jasper; it has a massive database of distinctive character names.
This tool can also help you create character backstories, relationships, and dialogues!
GhatGPT has received rave reviews since its release, and it’s well worth it. This tool can brainstorm new character ideas and concepts. If you already have an inspiration, enter it into the tool and mention that you want to add more depth. ChatGPT will work its magic!
This tool also offers writing prompts to help you explore various aspects of the character, such as their motivations and traits.
75+ Character Ideas to Use for Your Own Novel or Screenplay!
Here’s what you probably came here for – the list of fantastic, unique character ideas. I’ve separated them into common fiction genres, so you can find what you need easily.
I hope one of these helps inspire your next story character!
- A young girl discovers she has the ability to see into the supernatural realm and communicate with its creatures. Her power haunts her as it only brings her misfortune and makes her a target for dark forces.
- A strong-willed woman who makes rash decisions that often lead to dangerous consequences. Her impulsiveness often puts those around her in fear of their safety, but at times she can use her courage to save others from harm.
- A cursed man whose soul was taken by an unknown force and now hosts an evil spirit that could take control at any moment. He cannot remember his past life, nor is he aware of what lies ahead in the future.
- A teenage girl born with telekinetic powers that give her great potential but also comes with immense responsibility.
- An ambitious author whose thirst for knowledge often leads him down dark paths where danger lurks around every turn, yet his fearlessness gives him an edge over those seeking to do harm.
- Troubled and tormented since childhood, her inner darkness manifests as uncontrollable rage when provoked.
- A reluctant medium who discovers he has the ability to speak with the spirits of the dead – but wishes nothing more than for them to leave him alone.
- A war veteran has returned home from battle, scarred both physically and mentally. He finds comfort in numbing himself from reality. But even under a thick fog of alcohol, no escape can be found forever as demons from his past begin emerging.
- An archaeologist with an insatiable need to uncover ancient artifacts no matter how much danger that entails.
- An old professor, driven mad by ambition, ventures further into forbidden realms of arcane magic, hoping to find enlightenment.
- A suave and daring explorer who never backs down from any challenge – he is always looking for the next great adventure but often overlooks the importance of caution in his haste to take action.
- A streetwise ex-convict with a penchant for getting himself into trouble – he is not afraid to do what needs to be done to survive in harsh environments, but his questionable tactics cause more harm than good.
- An experienced soldier who is used to taking orders and following them diligently – despite her strong will and loyalty, she has difficulty understanding or accepting orders that go against her own code of ethics.
- A brave and courageous woman whose biggest flaw is her overconfidence – she will often underestimate an opponent or situation and doesn’t hesitate to throw herself into danger.
- An adrenaline junkie with an infectious enthusiasm for life that draws people towards him like moths to a flame. Although he loves living on the edge, sometimes his decisions are too risky, and the consequences are severe.
- A wise old man who often finds himself put in positions of authority due to his vast knowledge and experience, despite his aversion towards such responsibility.
- A mysterious woman whose cheery disposition hides secrets so dark they may haunt her forever if revealed – while she may put on pretenses of being carefree, she lives in fear more than anyone else in the group.
- A nomadic wanderer searching for something new far away from familiar places and faces – her greatest strength lies in her ability to adapt quickly no matter what situation she finds herself in, though it also occasionally leads her astray.
- A skilled fighter whose physical prowess does not overshadow his inner struggles with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression – this combination makes him both powerful yet fragile at the same time.
- A young man eager to prove himself worthy of joining the group despite being the least experienced among them all, he throws himself headfirst into danger, just trying to keep up with everyone else.
- An enigmatic person who speaks few words yet carries immense wisdom within those words – many have learned lessons from her without ever realizing it until much later. Now, credit should be given where it’s deserved.
- A teenage girl with a troubled past and a unique ability to manipulate the minds of others. She uses her power to seek revenge on those who wronged her.
- A scientist obsessed with discovering new technologies that could help mankind and prevent disasters. With no family or friends, she often puts her research ahead of everything else, leading to isolation and loneliness.
- A brilliant hacker whose life was ruined when he got caught up in a conspiracy involving wealthy businessmen and government officials. His biggest flaw is his addiction to the thrill of outsmarting those in power.
- An undercover agent for a powerful international organization with many secrets to keep. He’s loyal to the cause and willing to do whatever it takes, but his biggest flaw is his reluctance to take others into his trust – sometimes even those closest to him.
- A mysterious woman from an unknown realm with formidable powers that make her almost invincible in combat situations – but she also carries immense guilt for crimes committed in the past which haunt her day in and day out.
- An intelligent man with an uncanny ability to survive amongst danger thanks both to his brains and brawn – but he has made many enemies along the way as well.
- An eccentric millionaire playboy whose primary interest revolves around money rather than people – although he would like to find someone he can truly connect with.
- A beautiful siren whose enchanting voice lures people away without them ever remembering what happened once they’re gone – however, this talent brings its own risks as people begin questioning the source of her unique power.
- Despite living most of her life in seclusion due to an ancient curse upon her family, she possesses incredible magical powers stemming from her royal heritage.
- An experienced criminal mastermind who has been blamed for countless acts of villainy throughout his career – deep down, there lies a shred of decency.
- A wise druid with the ability to transform into a bear. She has a deep understanding of nature but is prone to short-tempered outbursts when her advice is not taken seriously.
- A brave warrior from afar who travels alone in search of adventure and glory. He wields an enchanted sword and wears armor made from an unknown metal that cannot be damaged by any known weapon.
- A young elf princess with the power to commune with animals and manipulate nature itself. She is naive, having lived the majority of her life sheltered within the royal court, but she possesses a strong will and sharp mind that can make her dangerous.
- An arrogant but skilled fighter who never hesitates to prove her worth in combat. She wields two blades imbued with lightning that strike faster than any other swordsman alive.
- A ranger whose body has merged with the mutated remains of an animal during a hunt gone wrong many years ago; now gifted (or cursed) with increased speed and strength.
- A mysterious sea captain with pointed ears, hailing from a lost civilization beneath the depths – her wealth comes from many different oceans, though none can tell what exactly she’s smuggling–except for maybe those closest to her.
- A master thief capable of scaling walls like a spider using only two hooks attached to each hand, he stole countless priceless artifacts across numerous kingdoms before settling down later in their old age—never quite giving up his criminal ways completely.
- A master engineer with a flair for the outlandish. His genius often leads his creations to destruction.
- A half-alien hybrid whose extraordinary physical features grant him superhuman abilities but also result in prejudice from others.
- A hacker extraordinaire who is obsessed with robotics and virtual reality technology but suffers from crippling anxiety and depression.
- An experienced bounty hunter who excels in tracking her targets across multiple star systems but has trouble controlling her temper when things don’t go her way.
- An AI scientist whose research focuses on creating intelligent artificial life forms to help humanity, but she hides a deep secret that could put her creations at risk if discovered.
- A gunslinger in search of justice and revenge, who has the uncanny ability to heal wounds using the force of will alone, although it leaves him weak and tired after each episode of healing.
- An ex-military pilot with extreme agility in space combat but is haunted by past traumas, which cause him to act impulsively in battle situations.
- A shape-shifting alien species living among humans as an undercover agent trying to unlock the mysteries of human emotions so her own species can experience them too.
- A time traveler capable of traveling through space, time, and dimensions – yet cursed by not being able to remember anything about his past or his family.
- A powerful sorceress who can manipulate almost any form of energy around her yet struggles with containing her emotions while casting spells out of anger.
- A cyborg ninja warrior controlled by a central computer program – now, he is starting to experience glitches in his programming, causing strange behaviors.
- A private investigator gifted with heightened senses that allow him to unearth secrets no one else can find – yet, at times, he alters the truth due to personal biases.
- An empath who can sense the emotional states of those around her yet doomed to feel all emotions much more deeply than normal humans.
- A wealthy entrepreneur with a mysterious past, whose smooth-talking charm masks a deep-seated narcissism and penchant for manipulation.
- An icy waitress with a hidden agenda who has had to make some tough decisions in her life. She is fiercely loyal but struggles to trust anyone outside her small circle of allies.
- An investigative journalist with vast knowledge of the criminal underworld. His intense hunger to uncover the truth often leads him into dangerous situations in which he must use his special gifts to escape unscathed.
- A shady financial advisor with a shady past who appears charming when everything is going well but reveals a darker side when things take a turn for the worse.
- A beautiful yet intimidating vigilante determined to bring justice back into society by any means necessary–legal or illegal.
- A retired doctor turned mad scientist on a quest for immortality – he believes that playing god will finally solve the world’s problems.
- A young girl who lost both parents at an early age, she developed strong survival skills during this tragic time while also seeing how cruel the world can be.
- A young war veteran who recently arrived in a new town is already developing a reputation for strangeness.
- An independent young woman who desires a passionate and meaningful relationship, yet her guarded nature makes it difficult for her to trust others and open up emotionally.
- A wealthy playboy whose attempts at romance lack emotion, leaving him unable to experience true intimacy with other people.
- A shy and introverted man who hides behind his art, though passionate in his work, he rarely shows the same passion in his personal life.
- An outgoing woman with a wild streak – she loves passionately but often finds herself disappointed in the end as she has difficulty connecting deeply with others on an emotional level.
- A free spirit who is open to new experiences and loves exploring the world – he never wants to be tied down by commitment, even though deep down, he yearns for something more permanent and meaningful in his life.
- Despite being incredibly beautiful on the outside, she can’t bring herself to believe someone could truly love her; this leads her into dangerous relationships, further damaging her self-esteem over time.
- An old-fashioned man whose sense of honor is too strong for his own good – instead of following his heart and taking risks, he sticks safely within the confines of societal expectations even when it hurts him.
- An ambitious career woman who distances herself from emotional connections as they tend to detract from her focus on success – yet beneath her professional demeanor, there is an intense longing for something more meaningful in her life.
- A kindhearted gentle giant whose efforts are often misunderstood by ungrateful friends or family members until they realize how much he truly cares about those around him.
- An empathetic soul whose biggest struggle is trusting anyone else enough to share her emotions or secrets with them– fear holds back any hope of finding true love unless she learns how to overcome it first.
- A world traveler and a language teacher cross paths and form a connection, but must determine how to make their relationship work despite their conflicting lifestyles.
- A psychic who is skeptical of love finds themselves falling for a cynic who denies all belief in the supernatural, leading to a conflict of beliefs and personal values.
- A fashion buyer and a sustainable designer with different ideals of fashion and consumption fall in love and must reconcile their differences in order to make their relationship work.
- An archaeologist falls in love with the guardian of a precious and ancient relic, leading to a battle between personal passion and professional duty.
- An introverted author who’s sworn off relationships and social media falls in love with a book blogger who challenges them to step out of their comfort zone.
- A popular podcaster whose relationship history is the topic of discussion on their show falls for a listener who challenges them to redefine their ideas of love and intimacy.
Conclusion: Character Writing Ideas for Fiction Writers
Writing characters is such an exciting and rewarding experience for fiction writers. You never know who you will create and the level of impact the character can have on your story’s plot or readers.
Following the ideas and advice in this article and putting in your own unique spin will help you create totally unique characters that readers can resonate with!
Remember to focus on the surface characteristics and their deeper qualities. Though it isn’t easy work, nothing is more gratifying than crafting a believable character full of life and personality.
So, put pen to paper and begin exploring the thousands of stories held within each character!