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Writing a character driven story

Last updated on 22/06/2023

Creating a character-driven story can be a rewarding experience for both the writer and the reader. Here is an detailed guide to creating a character-driven story:

Begin with your characters

In a character-driven story, the characters are the driving force of the plot. Spend time developing your characters by giving them detailed backgrounds, personalities, and motivations. Think about what makes them unique and what flaws they have. This will help you create characters that readers can relate to and care about.

Identify your protagonist

The protagonist is the main character whose journey the story follows. They should be relatable, likable, and have clear goals that they are working towards. Make sure your protagonist is dynamic and changes over the course of the story.

Create conflicts that are personal

Personal conflicts are what make character-driven stories so compelling. Rather than focusing on external conflicts, create conflicts that are personal to your characters. This could be anything from a romantic relationship to a struggle with identity or self-worth. Make sure your characters have strong emotional stakes in the story.

Show, don’t tell

Character-driven stories are all about showing your characters in action. Avoid heavy-handed exposition and instead, show your readers who your characters are through their actions, thoughts, and dialogue. Use vivid descriptions and sensory details to bring your characters to life.

Use introspection

Introspection is a powerful tool for character development. Use internal monologues or other characters’ observations of them to explore your character’s motivations and emotional state. This will help your readers understand your character’s thoughts and feelings.

Allow your characters to change

One of the hallmarks of a character-driven story is character development. Give your characters the opportunity to grow and change over the course of the story. This will help your readers feel invested in their journey. Characters should not remain static throughout the story but instead should evolve and develop as the plot progresses.

Create supporting characters that serve a purpose

Supporting characters should not just be background noise. Each character should serve a purpose in the story and have their own unique voice and personality. Supporting characters can be used to show different perspectives and add complexity to the story.

Use dialogue to reveal character

Dialogue is a powerful tool for revealing character. Make sure your characters have distinct voices and use dialogue to show their personalities, relationships, and conflicts. Dialogue should be natural and realistic.

Avoid stereotypes

Stereotypical characters are boring and predictable. Avoid creating characters that are one-dimensional or clichéd. Make sure your characters are unique, interesting, and have depth. Consider their backgrounds, experiences, and personality traits to create a well-rounded character.

Make the characters relatable

Readers want to see themselves in the characters they’re reading about. Create characters that readers can connect with on an emotional level. Use universal experiences and emotions to create characters that resonate with your audience.

Make sure the plot serves the characters

While the plot is still important, it should serve the characters and their development. Make sure the plot is compelling and engaging, but never at the expense of character development.

Balance character development with plot

While character development is important, it should never come at the expense of plot. Make sure the plot is moving forward and the story is progressing while still giving your characters room to grow and develop.

By following these tips, you can create a character-driven story that will engage readers and keep them invested in your characters’ journeys. Remember to take your time developing your characters, use dialogue and introspection to show who they are, and make sure the plot serves their development. A character-driven story is about creating a world that readers will want to come back to again and again, because they care about the characters who live in it.

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Published inWritingWriting tips


  1. This is a well-rounded and meaty list for a character driven story – and spot on! Readers don’t care about story unless they care about the characters. And yes – show, don’t tell. “Big Jim was a mean guy” TELLS us something. “Big Jim slammed the front door, spat on the porch and kicked the sleeping dog before he stomped away” SHOWS us something. Well done!

  2. This is such a great outline! I usually stick to short stories because I have found it difficult expand a character. Will have to try this process out. Thanks for putting this together.

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