Five Ways to Create More Complex Characters

Have you ever struggled with creating believable characters, with crafting characters who aren’t carbon copies of yourself? I certainly have!

Below are five ways to help create more complex characters. It’s not a complete list by any means but I’ve found it to be helpful.


1.) MBTI test

Have your characters take the the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator/MBTI test. You can find the test online and it’s free. I like free things. 🙂  The MBTI isn’t the end all to their personalities but it may give you a better understanding of how they tick.

For example, I’m an ENTJ. ENTJ stands for extroverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging.

My sister, on the other hand, is an INFP. INFP stands for introverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving.

My sister and I usually come at situations from totally different angles. I’m a total stickler for planning and if something interferes with the plan, shudders, we’re going to have a problem. My sister likes to go with the flow. She meets fresh opportunities and spur of the moment activities with complete ease.

Even though we’re sisters, we don’t usually handle situations in the same way. Your characters won’t either.

2.) Backstory

Your characters’ lives didn’t just begin when your story started. So, what happened before that?

Did they have a happy childhood or a tragic one?

What sort of relationships do they have with the other characters in your book? Are they friends, enemies? What event or events brought them to this point?

3.) Quirks and talents

What makes your character quirky or unique? Is their closet organized according to color? Are they masters at knife throwing?

Did something in their past cause these behaviors?

Why do they do the things they do? 😉

4.) The Interview

This was one of my favorite ways to flesh out my characters.

What’s their favorite color, season, type of food? What’s their best memory, their worst?

If they were trapped on an island and could only bring three things with them, what would they bring?

Some of my best character breakthroughs have come from these interviews.

5.) Character Pics

Pictures of your characters can really help to add detail and keep your descriptions consistent

I keep my character pics above my desk and in a folder.

Speaking of folders, I have a specific folder on my computer and in a binder with all of the above information for each character. It really helps me to keep my facts straight and record any new things I learn.

These five things are just ideas to help you as you work to create more complex characters. See what works best for you. 🙂





About Brittany Valentine

Saved by grace, sibling one of eight, part-timer by day, speculative fiction writer by night. Working on a series called The Chronicles of Aura.

4 comments on “Five Ways to Create More Complex Characters

  1. I too am a great pic-gatherer, but the danger is (for me at least) to make the characters too much like the picture! When I find one that’s dead on perfect it’s very, very hard not to allow inspiration to become imitation. I have to remind myself that pics represent personality, not identity. I like your reference to the personality test and the interview as well. I’ll have to consider those. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Usually, I have the characters’ physical appearance in mind clearly enough that I can do sketches of them. LOL A few turned into fully rendered portraits — nice but derailed actual writing time.
    On the other hand, I was able to use some of my drawings as illustrations in my Leyfarers & Wayfarers short story collection, along with 3 drawings by Ren Black done for one of the stories (“Tools of the Trade”).

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