While having coffee with a friend yesterday, we came across the subject of creating and developing characters for fictional stories. We all know that creating or developing characters is arguably the single-most important part in writing stories because they are the heart and soul through which the story is told. Well, of course, elements like plot, setting and theme, may play important role but these factors are secondary to the characters that your audience or reader can connect with on an intellectual or emotional level.


My very good friend Miguel, who is a professor and a writer, gave interesting insights on how to develop characters in the story and how they could come alive for your reader or audience. He said that great characters are built layer by layer through actions and discovery. It is not just about describing their reactions on certain scenarios or their feelings on certain things, but it should expound and rationalize the choices they make based on the cumulative actions and interactions that are of course created by the overriding effect of core desire, ambition, goal or driving need. These overriding elements could be the sum of scars and memories and ruined dreams that have left characters with resentments, fears, habit, weaknesses and inclinations that would perhaps explain their personhood. For instance, you character may want to finish studies despite his disabilities or his being economically disadvantage. The core desire, ambition, goal or driving need will somehow give structure and elicit layers of emotions while justifying their thoughts and every word of dialogue spoken.
He also added that what makes character in the story believable, captivating and unique is their vulnerability, contradicting traits, their secret as well as list of their personality quirks. These elements will keep readers enthralled and contribute to the character’s layers of personality as the story progresses.


Miguel’s trivia on developing and carefully crafting fictional characters was very informative. But what really caught my attention was how secrets as well as the list of the character’s personality quirks make each character real. I believe we would all agree that those dark and deeply hidden secrets make characters compelling. Character’s secrets could also be the main drive as it becomes part of the puzzle of a story that must be unraveled. The same is true with the character’s personality quirks; in my point of view the most compelling characters are those who appear to be internally consistent and yet are capable of surprise. Why it works? Our senses and mind by nature are tuned to focus on irregularities. Things that don’t quite fit or are constantly changing, happen to pique our curiosity.

While the element of surprise or personality quirk is the simplest to write, it is the hardest to develop because we don’t know what makes unique trait any different from the rest. So as an attempt to develop a list of personality quirks or traits that I might find useful in developing my story character, Miguel decided to do a simple exercise by running down 10 things that he find weird in me. These traits according to Miguel make me unique. It also set me apart from the rest of the pack. So here goes my top ten personality quirks based on Miguel’s observation.

  1. My favorite color is BLACK and because I am so loyal to my color of choice I can’t write in blue ball pen.

  2. Comfortable being alone but could not sleep alone in a room.

  3. Loves splurging on things but instead of using it I just sort of hang them in my closet or display them in my room like the artifacts you see inside a museum.

  4. Certified dessert girl who could go on a full week eating desserts and sweet treats only.

  5. Have a massive ticket collection of trains, planes and bus from my various travels as well as restaurant receipts from various coffee shops.

  6. When I love a book, I would read it over and over again until I could recite the character’s lines and identify the page that the character’s line may come from.

  7. Could be mistaken as the cold one because I love cold weather and rainy season. This also explains why I hate summer and beaches.

  8. An ardent feminist and debater who believes in advancing the rights of all women.

  9. Changes mind in a blink of an eye, makes multiple plans or takes off suddenly without a moment notice.

  10. One thing that makes me really happy is coffee.

Flabbergasted, Miguel’s list of unique traits came as a huge surprise to me because I didn’t know any of these strange facts did occur in my life but I have to agree that the list defined me as a person. It helped in digging deep and learning who I am.

Because creating characters that leap off the pages, lives and breathes are always the goal of every story writers, this exercise is a fun and creative way of fleshing out people’s personality. It also adds depth and dimension to any characters that you are developing or writing.

So whenever you are developing a character for your story it is best to insert personality quirk because it helps in creating resonance and deeper appreciation of what makes that person who they are.

Also, don’t forget to celebrate your so called weirdness because it makes you a LIMITED EDITION.



About giadre

My life could be packed into simple words- I live to be uncommonly well.
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