Main Characters

This post is just going to be a jumble of stuff.

Your main characters should:

  • Have a unique narrating voice (especially if there is more than one POV character)
  • Have agency i.e. be actively working against the conflict and not just letting the conflict happen to them
  • Be dynamic i.e. more than one trait should define them.
  • Develop i.e. either grow or regress over the period of the story
  • Be understandable, though not necessarily likable
Links to Character Inspirations:

10 Writing Resources Creating Characters from the Basics

Boys I Want to See in YA

Girls I Want to See in YA

Creating a Character from Scratch

On coming up with unique characters:

  • Read
  • Observe people. Ask yourself why they do what they do.
  • When writing, you’ll find yourself thinking “this is what the reader expects to happen.” Do the opposite.
  • Get to know your characters and you’ll find out things about them that naturally make them unique. Put them through scenes. Ask yourself why they’re doing what they’re doing.
  • Write them. Write them over and over. Hear them in your head. Search for their voices.
  • Do NOT make it so all your characters are likable. None of your characters should be likable 100% of the time because no human being is likable 100% of the time. Even Uncle Iroh was once a Fire Nation General who captured Ba Sing Se.
  • Read a book and analyze the main character of it. Write a character that’s the opposite.
  • Do character prompts.
  • Whatever thing you’re struggling with the most right now, take the purest, rawest form of that struggle and turn it into a character (this is how literally all of my MCs are created).
  • Find someone you trust who you can flip out about your OCs with. Hold on to that person. They are important. And talking about your OCs will keep you inspired.
GO WRITE SOME GREAT MAIN CHARACTERS. I BELIEVE IN YOU. Je vous aime, mes petits monstres.

Our Spongebob production art installation in the main lobby! These are from the show, but you guys have heard about the new movie coming out next weekend, right?

What happens when I watch too much of Sonic Boom...

At their front door, Sonic and Amy look very unimpressed at Eggman, who’s standing in front of a very large killer robot shaped present.

Eggman: So…

Amy: We’re not taking it Eggman.

Eggman: What?! Why not!

Sonic: Because Aurora does not need a killer robot as her first birthday present.

Eggman: You don’t know that it’s that!

Sonic: I can see claws and the rocket launcher on its shoulder.

Eggman: Stop being so judgemental.

Sonic: Its literally got the words “Killer Robot” embedded on its chest.

Eggman: That’s a typo.

Sonic: Get out.

Eggman: Look, I’m trying to help Aurora here. Can’t you see you’re limiting her potential?

Amy: What, by not getting her killed?

Eggman: No, by not allowing her to enjoy the wonders of science and technology. Think about all the experiences she could have, the fun she can have with her killer robot! Granted there might be some slight mutilation along the way, but hey, what’s childhood without some cuts and bruises.

Sonic and Amy still look very unimpressed.

Sonic: Look Eggman, I haven’t slept in several days, thanks to Aurora teething problems, so if you would try and attack us another day, that would be great.

Eggman: What if I was to tell that some of the “so called” rockets contained sleeping gas?

Sonic: Really? You think that’s going to that’s going to work Eggman? You really that that’s going to convince me to- how strong is that gas?

Amy: SONIC?!

Sonic: Hey, I just wanted to ask, that’s all.

Eggman: Yeah, Amy. Stop butting in. And hey look. Aurora is already interested.

Sonic and Amy look down to see Aurora crawling towards the robot, with her finger pointing towards it. Sonic quickly grabs Aurora, just as she touches the robot. The robot starts to shake violently, Sonic and Amy looking on with horror until the robot bursts open into scrap metal.

Eggman: Huh, guess I over did the hydraulics. Hey, you guys wouldn’t have a screwdriver by any chanc-?

Sonic and Amy: GET THE HELL OUT!!!

Thank God I have (insert character here)!

Inspired by a book I read. See, here’s the thing, guys. You need to have a reason for each character. They need to accomplish a goal, add to or further the plot, forge relationships with others, have distinct swoons, wounds, fears, failures, goals, etc, etc. But most importantly of these reasons, I think, they should add to or further the plot.

That said, that can’t be their only purpose.

Let’s say you need a bad guy. A bully at school. Someone to cause problems. What do you do? Plop in a bully. But now you need Bully’s friend. Plop in Bully’s friend. Now you need a random girl to be victimized, so Hero can go save her. Plop in Damsel. Now we need Damsel to have a brother, so someone owes Hero a favor. Brother has a friend.

We need someone to give a piece of advice. Plop in Veteran. We need the evil, heartless warrior. Plop in Warrior. People for the war? No problem. Plop in Gentle Giant, plop in Poster Boy, plop in Innocent. Plop. Plop. Plop.

And once they accomplish that one purpose—that one thing they do to further the plot—take them out and never use them again.



This book I read (which used this technique), ended up with like 40 characters, and only maybe 10 of them were necessary. The others were thrown in to do one thing, and then forgotten forever. It was the strangest thing. When Hero went back to his hometown, all of a sudden there were 5 new characters that were NEVER mentioned but he apparently knew them all and felt connected to them.

And even more weird, each character was treated like a main character. For those 4 pages they were involved in things, they were made out to be so much more important than they actually were. It set them up as someone who would be important for the rest of the book.

It was just really uncomfortable to be meeting new characters at a consistent rate. I felt like every chapter, there were at least two new people. Even in the last few chapters (such as when Warrior, the heartless bad guy, appeared), the author didn’t slow on the introductions.

Hero made it sound like Warrior was a huge hot shot and a major player. I didn’t oppose him as a bad guy, but I felt like he should have been mentioned or alluded to before we got to see him face to face. Since he wasn’t, it felt like the author was just adding in characters at their convenience.

With characters, less is more. As a general rule of thumb, fewer characters mean more characters you actually care about. You can’t just solve your problems and writing blocks by conveniently throwing someone in.

Some related topics for you guys: