Four tips for Creating Well-rounded Characters

I took a course on Character development found at the following link: /

Today I want to share with you four tips for creating well-rounded characters, which I have found to be helpful during my character development process.

Tip Number One

There are three traits that all of your characters have in common. These trades are: Dimension, conflict, and empathy. I will discuss each of these traits in the following three paragraphs, but I give you a more thorough discussion with some of my own examples in the podcast episode linked below.


If your characters are too perfect, have no conflict either internally or with their supporting characters, or there’s no tension in their lives, they can seem like flat, boring, cartoon-like cardboard cut-outs. If your characters have these simplistic, perfectionistic traits, your readers won’t be able to engage with them.


Your protagonist must have some sort of internal conflict that moves the story forward to make him or her stronger. Your character must change as the story progresses; therefore, the internal conflict and how it is resolved is the driving force behind your protagonist’s growth. If a character or set of characters grapple with situations related to your plot, from within, your readers will be hooked from the beginning. If you maintain this momentum throughout your story, you’ll leave them wanting more.


If you want a complex villain that stands out in your reader’s mind, you must humanize them by making the reader understand why they act the way they do. The villain is the character your readers will love to hate. Why not give them some sort of internal conflict of their own, to make your reader empathize with them? What is the driving force behind their actions? These are some points to consider when creating your antagonist.

Tip Number Two

Give your protagonist a personality, different from that of your supporting characters, whether they be friend or villain. For example, your protagonist doesn’t have to be perfect, he or she needs some good qualities, so readers can relate to him or her.
By the same token, your villain needs to have trades that make your readers love to hate them. These personality trades will determine how a given character will react when you put them in precarious plot situations. As long as you stay true to these personality trades, your readers will stay engaged in your story. Deviate from these trades and you’ll confuse your audience, thus making them want to put your book down, before they turn the last page.

What does your character want?

Once you determine the answer to this important question, you will be able to create conflicts to help your main characters reach their full potential, determine how they interact with supporting characters, and help you dictate their behavior and explain the reasons behind their actions.

Tip Number Three

Your characters must have realistic contradictions, if you want your readers to connect with them. That doesn’t mean that your characters can’t have a few identical traits, because these traits are used with good reason. However, you don’t want to have too many similar traits in each individual character. If you do, you’ll create caricatures, instead of creating well-rounded characters. For example, your villain can be a vicious character, with not a kind word for those around him, except for a child or family member that he loves with all his heart. By the same token, your protagonist can be a sweet, kind, fun-loving person to everyone else, but when someone who caused her trouble in her distant past shows up, she either runs in fear or turns her vengeance on the other person
Drawing from aspects of your own life, the lives of people you know and those you observe when you are out and about, and characters you love to read about in books, will help you create complex characters of your own. As your characters’ personalities come through in their words and actions throughout your story, they will resonate deeply with your readers.

Tip Number Four

Provide character descriptions beyond physical appearance. When I talk about character descriptions, I don’t simply mean a character’s race, Hight, weight, hair color, the clothes they wear etc., I am talking about describing your characters on a much deeper level. The following three examples will give you a better understanding of what I mean.

Signature attributes

You’ll want to provide attributes that stand out in a reader’s mind. These attributes help your characters discover their true identity as the story progresses. As you listen to the most recent episode of Inspirational Journeys linked below, you’ll hear me talk about how your character should grow and change as the story progresses. Let’s say you have a protagonist that’s extremely shy in the beginning of your story. As your novel unfolds, you must put your protagonist in precarious situations. You must also create innovative ways to get her out of the plot situations you’ve put her in, to make her a much stronger person at the end of the story. The signature attributes you give her are the ones that will help her overcome any internal conflict.


A character’s mannerisms or special ticks can give away a character’s emotions. These descriptions go above and beyond his or her physical appearance. For example, let’s say you have a protagonist who paces when he’s nervous or bites her fingernails when she’s upset. How about a villain who shakes his fists and clenches his teeth when he’s angry? These are all ways of showing the reader your characters’ emotions, instead of telling your audience what they are feeling. For example, in my novel entitled A Journey of Faith: A Stepping Stones Mystery, during the flashback in the first chapter, Becca remembers a rock-climbing trip she and her sister took with their church. When Mandy gets Becca to go out onto the climbing path, Becca turns tail, running off the path to throw up. Instead of saying Becca was too scared to climb, I showed her emotion in the way I wrote the scene.


This is a form of description that is more subtle, rather than shown in the forefront of your story. For instance, an object such as an animal might have one meaning on the surface, yet symbolize an element in your narrative that is hidden in metaphoric or poetic language. However, there are instances, especially in mystery or suspense novels, where a group of words or phrases, having one meaning on the surface, could be used as code words for a hidden clue to help the amateur sleuths or the detectives in a police procedural, solve the puzzle presented in the story.

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Which of these tips to you find useful when developing your characters? What other characteristics do you use to develop your characters? Please share your answers to these questions in the comments below, or you can send an email to

To hear my discussion on this topic, where I share some of my own examples, please Listen to the most recent episode of my podcast: Seven tips for creating well rounded characters

Thanks for listening to the podcast and for reading my posts. I wish you much success in your writing endeavors. Until next time, have a blessed day.

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