9 Lesson 5: Creating Characters

Characters vs. Real Life Human Beings

Understanding a character is no different than understanding oneself and/or other human beings. Writers know their characters by spending time with them. They create their characters through the following ways:

  • Physical trait descriptions
  • Dialogue
  • Interaction with other characters

Physical Trait Descriptions

Physical trait descriptions of a character can include any of the following:

  • Ethnic background
  • Hair, eye, and skin color
  • Size
  • Age
  • Clothing apparel
  • Social class

The key is not to describe all of the physical traits, but to choose the traits that are important to build the story.


Dialogue is the conversations characters have with other characters. How they speak depends on several factors:

  • Where they live
  • The time period in which they live
  • Their age

If the story is set in modern day time period, writers sometimes eavesdrop on conversations in restaurants, coffee shops, parks, shopping centers, etc. to observe how people might talk about particular topics.

Conventional rules exist when writing dialogue:

  • Each time a new person speaks a new paragraph is needed.
  • What the person said is placed in quotation marks.
  • Capitalize the first word that a person speaks.
  • A dialogue tag tells who is speaking.
  • Commas and periods are placed inside quotation marks.

Common dialogue tags are he said and she said. When writers want to describe the character’s tone in speaking, they may use stronger action verbs like the following:

  • Answered
  • Asked
  • Begged
  • Cautioned
  • Cried
  • Demanded
  • Exclaimed
  • Explained
  • Grumbled
  • Insisted
  • Muttered
  • Ranted
  • Rebuked
  • Replied
  • Reported
  • Screamed
  • Shouted
  • Stammered
  • Stuttered
  • Suggested
  • Warned
  • Whined
  • Whispered
  • Yelled

Dialogue Example

“Did you complete the assignment,” Mrs. Jenson asked as she flipped through a stack of papers.

Angela replied, “No.”

“Why not?”

“Well, because I wanted to go out for pizza with my friends,” explained Angela looking at the floor to avoid direct eye contact with Mrs. Jenson.

Notice because the conversation is between two characters, a dialogue tag is not always necessary once it is established who is speaking. The paragraph breaks help readers know who said, “Why not?”

Notice the punctuation inside the quotation marks. Notice the punctuation following the dialogue tag “Angela replied.”

Notice the capitalization of first words in dialogue.

Interaction with Other Characters

The interaction with other characters is a two-way street. It includes how the protagonist, the main character, behaves toward the others in the story, but it also includes how others treat the protagonist. That interaction is evaluated through the following ways:

  • What all the characters say to one another
  • How they treat each other physically
  • How they interact emotionally




Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Introduction to Creative Writing Copyright © by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book