Character Development: How to Write Realistic Characters

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I am alive.  Shocker, I know.

I am probably going to have to fall to posting twice a month because school is intense.  Sigh.

I’m slightly motivated to keep this up though because a teacher told me that blogging looked great to college admissions.  (The only reason I do anything anymore: college. :’) )

And of course, blogging is fun. 😛

NaNoWriMo is only nine days away!!  I’m attempting it again this year (last year was a disaster) with the hope that I can finish my novella.  I’m not sure if it’ll be the whole 50,000 words because my novella might not take that long, but we’ll see.

I’ve been plotting quite a bit and guys, I’m awful at plotting.  I have my world (dystopian/steampunk/sci-fi/fantasy yes, it’s crazy and I love it) and I have my characters (soft little beans who will stab you).  But when it comes to plot….  there’s absolutely nothing.

So I’m going to do the natural thing, and ignore my plot until the very last minute before NaNoWriMo.

And you get a post about characters because I like to think that I’m actually okay at developing characters.

It’s a win/win.  (Not really. )

MBTI Typing:

If you have a small understanding of your character already, but want to go more in depth, then I’d recommend the Myers Briggs test.  (

I do this for all of my characters, and read through all of the guide.

Why?  It makes your character a cohesive person

Yes, your character is unique.  But typically, people tend to fall into one of the MBTI boxes.  Having your character act in character (snicker) makes him seem more realistic.  For example, your nerdy stoic character isn’t going to turn into a creative feely character half way through your story if you start with the basis that your character is an ISTJ.

If I’m ever unsure of how a character would act, I just read through the description and can usually find something to answer the WWCD (What Would my Character Do?)

(I wrote a post about this wayyyy back (Back when I knew nothing about making graphics or long enough posts or grammar) But it goes slightly more in depth so: Should you MBTI Type Your Characters?)

Enneagram Test:

I just rediscovered this last week and it’s actually super helpful?  If I have a character that doesn’t really fit in any of the boxes of the MBTI test, then I head over to Enneagram.  There’s only nine types, and it’s a little broader than the narrower 16 categories in MBTI. However, it’s also useful to use both as there are some Correlations between MBTI and Enneagram types

(Word of caution: it can be used as a weird spiritual thing.  Just don’t get into the whole witch thing, and you’re fine using it as a personality test.)

Here’s a really good explanation of the Enneagram: 

From Personality Hacker: “The Enneagram is a 9-pointed system. Each of the nine types is a different strategy for dealing with trauma. Some argue that you discovered your Enneagram type at your first childhood trauma, and it’s been with you ever since. Considering side-stepping, mitigating, handling and dealing with trauma is a big deal for the psyche, your mind created a ‘go-to strategy’ for navigating it, and so your Enneagram type – your “trauma navigation tool” – is born and subsequently becomes an influential part of you. It’s with you all the time, and since your brain is an ecosystem of self-referencing concepts which get folded into other concepts, your Enneagram type impacts you in a number of ways you may not be able to predict.” (emphasis mine)

All of our poor characters have experienced trauma.  (If they haven’t, then you should probably rethink your story.)  The Enneagram is great for determining how they react to the trauma and how they express feelings.  I encourage you to read the full article above.

Character Quizzes:

I personally don’t care for filling out personality quizzes.  I like taking a test and being told what I am.  But, quizzes are a great starting point because you can’t take a test without knowing something about your character.

I wrote a list of questions here a while back: 55 Questions for Plotting Your Characters

It’s a bit tedious, but worth it.

Writing Scenes:

I do this if I’m stuck on a character’s backstory or need to do extra digging to find out what my character is like.

I write a backstory scene that may or may not relate to my actual story.  It gets me in the character’s head without being confined to my actual story.  I never intend to make them a part of the book, but most times they snake there way in there.

Or, take a character and put them in a different world.  Your fantasy, sword-wielding heroine bakes cookies with her mother in New York city.

Find out who your characters are when they’re not in a plot.  Make them people, not marionettes controlled by your plot.


Read books with deep or unusual characters.  Watch movies and take note of their characters.  Listen to conversations and pay attention to how people speak.  Listen to music that relates to your character.

For example, I found this song:

It perfectly related to one of my characters.  Whenever I needed to get into her head, I would listen to the song and then I could write from her POV more effectively.

Pay attention to media.  It’s a good inspiration. 🙂

Interview Your Character:

Ask them questions, and record their answers in character.  It works.

Me: So, Athena, what’s your greatest secret?

Athena: What? Like I’d tell you.  Everyone has secrets, but that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to know.  Go investigate somewhere else.

Me: Okay then.  Moving on: Who do you care most about in the world?

Athena:  I don’t care about people.  It’s too messy, and someone always ends up hurt.  But, if I had to say… maybe Raven.  Don’t tell him I said that.  When he’s not being annoying or pathetic, I guess he’s tolerable.

Me: Tolerable?

Athena: He has some determination, I guess.  But he needs to stop shying away from danger, or he’ll never succeed.  

I hope this helped a bit.  Now I have to go work on outlining… sigh.

Here’s a list of all my other NaNoWriMo related posts:

NaNoWriMo -Slay the 50k Word Dragon- Guest Post by Wysteria

Me and Goals (aka, the love-hate relationship)

Building Strong Characters

Chopping Writer’s Block into Non-existence!

The Best Writing Playlist: Songs For Every Step

And that’s all for today, folks.  (And probably for the rest of the month.)  Good luck on NaNo if you’re trying it this year!



2 thoughts on “Character Development: How to Write Realistic Characters

  1. Great post! I do some of these – MBTI, a character ‘soundtrack’ and interviewing my characters in character. The Enneagram is new to me so I’ll have to check it out. I feel like I’m okish when it comes to characters but outlining is my weakness… so I’m looking forward to any of those tips 😉


  2. Great tips! Making characters feel like flesh and bone people can be sooooo hard, but it’s always worthwhile! I sometimes use the MBTI test too, and of course I have a list of questions to ask my characters. Character making (while still hard) is so fun and creative.



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