When you start writing a work of fiction, you have to have all of the elements necessary for a story. This includes creating characters that your readers will be able to connect with, relate to, love, or hate. You must create characters who have personality traits that can be described, as we as interesting character quirks that keep a reader invested in the story.
When you can make readers become invested in your characters, you draw them in and make them interested in the plot. When the reader cares about what happens to a character, they keep reading. Your characters become more than just people to first you, as the author, and then to the audience.
This article will provide ideas for types of characters and character ideas that are frequently found in stories that may provide some inspiration to you as a writer.
Think About Yourself
When writing a novel, most people inject themselves or fuse themselves to a character, sometimes without even realizing it. If you do a little bit of research on an author before you read some of their books, you may start to see similarities, if not outright parallels, between themselves in real life and a character in the story.
This is because we tend to write what we know, and what character do we know better than ourselves? So if you’ve got a great idea for a story, think about yourself. Could you exaggerate some of your own character quirks or traits to fit a character in your story? In this case, you can make your art imitate your life in your writing.
Authors also often use their past or current professions as a starting point to build a character. Many authors were attorneys, police officers, detectives, or investigators before they became novelists. Many of them breathe life into characters that mirror themselves in those sorts of professions.
When the author can relate to the character, it becomes much easier to predict what the character will most likely say, or do, or how they will react to whatever conflict you put in front of your character. It’s like putting a new twist on your own life, and when done correctly, emulating yourself with your characters can make the character one that is realistic and that readers feel could jump right off the page and live in the real world.
Types of Characters
It largely depends upon what sort of book you are writing as what sort of characters you should have. There are some character types; however, that show up across most genres. Although they may seem a bit cliche, they are usually intriguing and dependable lead characters that people can connect with and come to care about once they are put into the story.
The following are types of characters that are typically seen in writing, as well as examples of their usage in well-known stories.
The Strong but Flawed Character
This is a character that bridges almost every genre. You see this character in slightly different variations in nearly every novel you read. This man or woman is usually either a leader before the conflict or a natural leader who assumes the role after the conflict is introduced. Good at making quick decisions, strong, and willing to jump into action when needed for other characters in the story.
This character isn’t always a hero but is a strong presence in the story as someone who can lead, get things done, and support the other characters. There is usually some major flaw that the character has to attempt to overcome, and part of the plot of the story involves the character attempting to tackle the flaw.
Examples of this character in different genres:
Harry Potter is only a child, but he is a natural leader. He is a mistreated and neglected child who rises to stardom quickly when he finds out that he is revered in the wizarding world as the “boy who lived” when he survived a murder attempt that killed his parents when he was just a baby. In danger now and hunted by a regime of evil wizards, he must help protect his friends, provide strength for his peers, and believe in himself.
He is always willing to put himself in danger to protect his friends, often coming within inches of death, and he is a true friend and kind to nearly everyone he meets. His major flaw is that he is insecure and doesn’t believe that he’s the hero that everyone believes him to be. He wants to solve the mystery of who he is and where he comes from, and he must learn to have confidence and faith in himself.
Christian Grey is a successful businessman who has a lot of power and money. Handsome and popular, but most people would describe him as quite mysterious or even weird. He will go to any length to protect basically anyone he cares about and is aggressive when it comes to work and relationships. His identity is primarily tied up in his air of mystery, need for control, and insecurities.
His major flaw is that he was abused as a child and cannot imagine a future in which he doesn’t have absolute control in every aspect of his life. He has trouble truly connecting with and loving other people because he doesn’t love himself.
Stu Redman is ex-military and trying to enjoy a solitary, quiet life in Texas when the apocalypse occurs. Most humans on the planet die of a mysterious virus, and Stu finds that he is immune. Those who survive must band together and find a way to build a safe and secure future, while nearly half of the survivors become chaotic murderers and seek to destroy the people who stand for what is right.
Finding himself suddenly leading a group of survivors, Stu emerges as a natural leader who puts his own safety on the back burner and will go to any length to protect those in his group and get them to their destination.
He volunteers as tribute when it comes time to face the evil group head-on, and he is willing to die for what he believes in and stands for. His major character flaw is that those he cares about can be used against him, and his sense of optimism and hope often get in the way of him seeing things realistically.
Why We Make Them Flawed
This character exists in nearly every fiction novel written, the hero who has a burden or a flaw. When movies are made based on the book, these characters are usually played by strong and physically attractive people (Jamie Dornan plays grey, and James Marsden plays Redman).
Authors give them a flaw because no one wants to read about a perfect character. We have to throw obstacles at these characters so that they can become the heroes they were meant to be, and they’re supposed to have a flaw so that we can still relate to them as an audience. They’re usually not the most fun characters, but they are essential to the plot of most book ideas to keep the action going.
The Quirky Sidekick
These characters also often exist in most genres. Their character quirks define them, the humor they lend to a serious main character, and their ability to keep the story interesting and entertaining. The idea is to write this character in a way that keeps an element of fun, even in the most serious scenario.
This is a person who is often essential to the main character being able to stay the course and get the conflict resolved. A great example of this is Dr. Watson, in relation to Sherlock Holmes. Watson does less talking, and his comments are often more of a supporting commentary to what Holmes says, but he is there to give readers the things that the main character is missing.
You create this character with quirks, and you reveal less about this character’s backstory because they are there to lend their skills and wit and give the main character someone to talk to.
The main difference between this character and the main character is that it doesn’t matter what body type the character has or how unlikely the pairing of this character is with the lead character. This character lends a sense of real human skill and wit and what are usually plenty of flaws.
Ron Weasley is a goofy redheaded boy who lives with his large family. The best friend of Harry Potter, Ron, is often first in line when someone is needed to defend or back up Potter. Often faced with impossible dangers, the reader knows that Potter can always count on Ron.
Barely noticed unless he is assisting the main character, this character’s past is barely explained aside from the fact that he has a large family and his father and brother work for the Ministry of Magic.
This character’s quirks include having a pet rat that is always running off, loving treats, having a sarcastic personality, being quick to anger, and getting into trouble alongside Potter so that Potter isn’t left to suffer the consequences of his actions alone.
Characters Perfect for a Book Series
Writing a book series often means that your ideas for characters have to be ones that are lasting and not too flat or exhausting for the audience. The quirky sidekick is almost always present in a book series because they lend sometimes needed relief from the protagonist and antagonist.
The sidekick’s purpose is to showcase everything from quirks to keep the story entertaining, to a comment needed at just the right time that’s not something our protagonist would say but is needed to keep the narrative and plot moving.
Often, this sidekick role is played by someone who has a skill set that the protagonist does not, which makes the role of the sidekick matter even more.
Holly Gibney is a sidekick full of quirks to the point that it has been widely speculated that her quirks actually tell of autism. In the Mr. Mercedes thriller series, she is the trusty sidekick who is paired up with a much older, less modernized retired detective named Hodges.
Holly is a technology whiz, and her role is absolutely vital to the progression of the story. It is not believable that the older man trying to solve murders has the technological know-how to navigate Twitter for a comment that may be a clue, a blog post for admissions of guilt, or a Pinterest share for ideas on motives.
So that job goes to Holly, a spinster who has social anxiety and spends her time on computers, phones, and watching movies. She says very few words, but when she does speak, she says things that matter as far as solving the crime goes.
The characters of Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney couldn’t be more different, but they were both essential in writing the series. Hodges had a tendency to be too serious and almost a Luddite when it came to technology. The audience would have trouble believing that he knows what a blog is. Writing a sidekick for him to fill in the gaps means that the characters can play off of each other.
There is almost always a villain in fictional stories. Character ideas for the villain vary widely, though. When you write a villain, it is sometimes helpful to make this character the opposite personality type of the main character.
Many authors find that the villain is often the most fun to write because you can give them sinister ideas, a devious, clever, or even detestable personality, and make them act and talk in any way you want. You have a lot of freedom with the villain, and you can add quirks, a troubled and interesting past, and add any sense of decency or perversion of humanity if you want.
Villain characters can look any way you want. You can describe them as grotesque monsters or as suave, good-looking people with interesting quirks. They can act in a manner that is outright evil, or you can create a devious yet charming villain who isn’t noticed for the role they are cast in until the protagonist calls attention to it.
This is also a role that you can trick the audience about. For example, in the Harry Potter books, Professor Snape is the suspected villain throughout the entire series. We are offered a minimal history of Snape, aside from the fact that he was in love with Potter’s mother as a young boy.
The setting keeps him in a position of note because Snape can’t leave the place where all of the events take place (Hogwarts School), so he is always a suspect for any crimes that take place there.
His quirks include the fact that he is sarcastic, outwardly hateful, and seems to forget that he is supposed to treat all students fairly. He shows favoritism to the antagonists in the book, and every comment he makes seems to be negative towards Potter and his friends.
In this work of fiction, the audience tends to decide early on that due to his words and actions; Snape is the bad guy. However, we see a shift in behavior towards the end of the series and learn that we were wrong the entire time in our suspicions. Rowling, the author of the book series, duped millions of readers with her writing.
This method works because so many of us have experience with the real thing. As they say, life often imitates art. Most of us have formulated ideas about someone we know or heard stories about someone that led us to believe that they are the bad guys.
Maybe it’s a teacher, or a boss, or a person on the outskirts of our friend group. We make comments to our friends, spouses, or coworkers about our suspicions regarding the person we believe to be devious or bad, and they often share stories with us to confirm our ideas.
A lot of the time, when we take the time to really get to know the person, we find out that they were just misunderstood, quiet, or had quirks we didn’t understand initially, and they’re not a bad person at all. When we see these characters in stories, we are often susceptible to the same premature suspicions.
Sometimes the things we write don’t have people in them at all. Many fables and fairy tales don’t have humans. Animals, mythical creatures, and other non-human entities still count as characters when writing.
Take, for example, the well-known story “Charlotte’s Web.” This is a piece of writing that features characters that are mostly animals. Aside from very small character parts (the child, the farmer, the farmer’s family), the characters are all animals who live on a farm.
They are intelligent, they speak to each other, and although they are not humans, they still speak, act, and think as humans do. These characters all have different personalities that work together in the writing to face and solve the conflict that is introduced.
Other Characters Used in Writing
When writing, there are often more than a few key characters introduced. Some books, like The Lord of the Rings, have so many characters that it can be difficult to keep them all straight. Just like in life, most situations and scenarios include several people. Books are no different.
There are many other various roles you may consider including when writing a story. Depending upon the genre, some may be more appropriate than others. Some, but not all of these roles include: a love interest, a victim, a mentor, background helpers who are more minor than the sidekick, a henchman, suspects, and family members.
A few examples of these roles will now be provided, using the literary examples already mentioned in this article.
Were it not for the existence of Ana in “50 Shades of Grey” as the love interest; the book would have been much different. Without Ana, it would have been a book about a rich, tortured soul who spends his time looking for sexual gratification without commitment while continuing a lifestyle of decadence.
Were it not for Harry Potter’s parents being murder victims of the sinister Lord Voldemort; there’s very little chance that Potter would have risen to the importance that he does in the book series. So much of his drive and motivation stems from trying to avenge the death of his parents that not having them as victims would have watered down the point of the story.
Using another Harry Potter example, Ron Weasley would be a less effective sidekick if his family didn’t have connections to the Muggle world and the Ministry of Magic. Ron is able to gain valuable information about things going on outside of Hogwarts by communicating with his family.
His sister is also the love interest for Harry Potter and the victim of at least one bad guy, giving Potter motivation to go to battle with this particular foe to save her. Ron’s family is relied upon heavily throughout the series, although very few readers would say that his family is a part of what would be considered “main characters.”
Characters are absolutely essential to the success of storytelling. When we read books, we imagine the characters in our minds and look for the ones we feel we most closely resemble. We sometimes find ourselves falling in love with some of the characters and wishing they were real. Characters are one of the most important story elements.
Funny Character Ideas
Below are some funny character ideas that you can directly use or tweak to fit your plot and theme:
- An introverted character is continually required to face a sea of people.
- A character who is a self-proclaimed celebrity has not gained any real fame.
- A brilliant character always loses her way despite being given directions.
- A secretive character tends to reveal others’ secrets.
- A character is into fashion but often mismatches her clothes with too many accessories.
- A clumsy character always corrects his friends about their every movement and gesture.
- A manipulative character always ends up being fooled by others.
- A character who is unqualified to be promoted gets promotion by luck.
- A character who gossips is too sensitive when she becomes the center of conversations.
- A weirdo character misleads the police and is the cause of unresolved crimes.
- A character tends to attract many girls deliberately but always does things unintentionally to turn them off later.