Defining a Memorable Character Part 2 – Traits

Traits – Defining a Memorable Character Part 2

February 29, 2016 | Writing

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A character’s personality and physical traits can say a lot about them, these statistics help make it easier for a reader to identify them. Their qualities is also what makes them memorable to the readers. Think about some of your favorite characters in a book or movie, was it their physical appearance or did they have a personality that you find appealing? What made these traits attractive to you? These are the questions you need to ask yourself so you can decide how you want readers to perceive your characters.

In the previous post we covered the motive of a character, what drives your characters to do the actions that they do. If they don’t have a reason then they do not serve much of a purpose in the plot. Now let’s get into a character’s traits to really give them defining roles.

Physical Traits That Fit the Role.

Your characters are going to have physical descriptions, it helps identify them and allows the readers to visualize them. A character’s physical persona should reflect their personality, much like how people are out on the street. Just go for a walk and examine how people act and how they are dressed. To simply put it, stereotypes come from somewhere. For example, if you have a character who has tattered hair, rugged clothes and has a naturally resting scowl is probably not going to be a cheerful character.

Create a Backstory to their Appearance.

Does your character have a scar? Do they always wear gloves? What about boots with a distinctive click in each step they take? These can be iconic appearances that your character has. Just because they are ‘cool’ traits doesn’t mean it fits with the character. If you mention distinctive physical traits like these your readers are going to begin to wonder “why does this character look that way?”

This is where your storytelling comes in, you’re a writer, give some backstory to their appearance!

Love the Personality

Common words you hear shared regarding dating, also applicable to writing memorable characters. Their personality are the traits that make them behave uniquely, the way they talk, are they optimistic, pessimistic or opportunists? Do they speak in riddles making them mysterious or do they not talk a lot at all? These are some of the questions you will have to ask yourself when creating their personality. Some of these will be easy to come up with once you have defined their motive in the story. A character who is seeking revenge for their family being murdered will be jaded, possibly short tempered and very goal oriented or irrational. A personality is what will really bring the character to life to you readers. Their actions and words will make the readers buy into them.

Finding inspiration: sketches, research, and reference.

Stuck coming up with ideas, or nothing coming to mind right away? Find some inspiration. I am a very visual person and often draw a quick sketch of my characters or creatures so I can have a better idea of how to describe them. Another effective method to generate ideas for character is researching the area or time period that you are writing about. What are the people like there? Any historical figures you can find in that area/time? You can also find characteristics in real people that you know or have heard of that might fit into your characters.

Character Sheets

We talked about these in the last blog post as well, all of your traits can go onto a character sheet. This will help you be consistent with their physical appearance along with keeping note on any unique personality traits that they might have. This will continue to help make your story straight.


Defining character traits is where you will most likely spend a lot of your time. It is highly important to polish these out before you get too deep into the story. Following these steps will help avoid any potential scene rewrites because a character is acting out of their normal. Some initial groundwork can save your hours down the road.

Next blog post we will take a look at coming up with character names. Much like the physical and personality traits of your character, you want them to have a name that is memorable to the reader.

Defining a Memorable Character Part 3 – The Name

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