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Create a Protagonist in 15 steps

Updated: Feb 15

A story will leave an audience cold unless you populate it with engaging characters. But how can you create a compelling, believable protagonist people love to love or love to hate?

Character creation is a layered process that starts with basic details and delves into deeper elements like backstory, relationships, and internal conflict.

It's about creating a well-rounded, relatable, and compelling being that drives the story and leaves a lasting impression on the audience's mind.

Answer these 15 questions about your main character and you'll be well on the way to creating a story that your audience will be unable to tear themselves away from.

(Audioscript below)

Question 1: What are the character's basic specs? We're talking NAME, AGE and GENDER. These are the first bricks in the foundation.

Question 2: Where was the character BORN & RAISED? Is this the same as their nationality? This provides valuable insight into the character's cultural background, shaping their beliefs, values, and perspectives, and is closely linked to the next question–

Question 3: What's their RELIGION or KEY GUIDING BELIEF or VALUE system

which serves as a compass guiding their actions and decisions?

Question 4: What's their JOB? Don't just arbitrarily pick something. How can it add to the overall story and our understanding of the character themselves?

And another thing-make sure you do some due diligence and interview people working in that profession so you can include realist details on their day-to-day. This added authenticity immediately checks the "believable" box in an audience's mind!

Question 5: What's their AREA OF EXPERTISE? Question 4 and 5 can help us figure out their role in the narrative, the skills they bring to the table, and how they interact with the world around them. But characters aren't just about facts and figures. They have a physical presence.

Question 6: What do they LOOK LIKE? This shapes the audience's visual perception of the character and can be used to highlight certain personality traits or aspects of their background.

Question 7: What are the character's LIKES and DISLIKES?

Question 8: What are their HOBBIES and INTERESTS? Answering question 7 and 8 add depth, making the character more relatable and human. They also provide opportunities for the character to interact with the world around them in unique ways.

Question 9: What are the character's OTHER DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS? This could include quirks, habits, or unique traits that set them apart from the crowd. But a character is shaped by their past, which leads us to–

Question 10: What's their BACKSTORY? This includes defining life events and experiences, past trauma, emotional wounds, and secrets. These elements provide context, motivation, and depth to the character's actions and decisions.

Question 11: What are the character's FLAWS, WEAKNESSES, FEARS, and INSECURITIES? These elements create conflict, challenge the character, and drive character development.

Question 12: What are the character's KEY RELATIONSHIPS and what are the ISSUES they have with these people? This information adds another layer of complexity and conflict.

Question 13: What drives the character? What are their GOALS, WANTS, and DESIRES? These can be external, short-term, or long-term and provide direction for the character's journey.

Question 14: What are the character's internal NEEDS? These are often in contrast with their external goals, creating internal conflict and tension, which is a vital part of compelling storytelling.

Question 15: What INTERESTING SCENES could illustrate any of the above? This is where all the elements come together to create moments that reveal character and move the story forward.

Next time you're about to breathe life into a new character, remember these steps.

Start with the basics, delve deeper, and voila, you've got a character ready to take on the world.

Happy writing, story lovers!

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