How to Make your Characters Feel Real

Have you ever abandoned one of your stories because you just couldn’t connect with your characters anymore and didn’t feel like writing about them?
Or maybe you stopped reading someone else’s story because their characters were either flat, bland, or incoherent?

Often, this happens due to poor planning when it comes to our characters. Do we really know our characters? Are we just writing about random people who react to the events in the story, or are we truly taking our time to build them and give them likes, dislikes, a family, a childhood, health problems, pet peeves, and hobbies?

There are lots of helpful character creation threads on this forum and on the Internet in general. Each one is unique. Kale’s thread as well as Cookie’s thread have helped me a great deal. The long list of character question that Cole Catalyst posted on the Episode forums was also extremely helpful.
In this thread, however, I want to go into detail about some of the basic elements of building your character.


1. Your characters name
Let’s start with something very basic. What’s your main character’s name?
There are many ways to choose a name for a character. Some people (like me) will go with a name they like. Others might want their name to have a particular meaning that describes one of their strongest personality traits. You can go on a name meaning website to help you with this.

Okay, so now that you’ve chosen your name… does it reflect the character’s culture and/or ethnicity? Let’s say that you want to name a character Michelle, but she’s from a country where that name isn’t common at all. Was she named after a song or a character from a TV series or movie? Also, if your character is from a country that you don’t know much about, you might want to do some research about naming conventions in that country. For example, in some parts of Greece (not sure if all), kids are usually named after their grandparents.

Now, is there a story behind their name? Why did their parents choose it? Religious reasons? Popularity? In my story, my main character’s name is Emilianna. I chose it because I love that name, and I wanted to give it to a very special character. Emilianna in my story is Lebanese, and since her name is not common in Arabic culture, I justified it by mentioning that her mom was addicted to soap operas and telenovelas, and while she was pregnant, she was watching a soap opera with a very beautiful and charming protagonist named Emiliana. (She added the extra ‘n’ because… she’s extra, that’s why. :joy: )

So, you’ve got all that, but how does your character feel about their name? Do they like it or hate it? Do they prefer to be called by a shortened version of their name or by a nickname? Even in some stories where the reader can choose the MC’s name, I’ve seen a type-in choice for a nickname or pet name. (Act of Vengeance did this really well. I chose to keep the canon name and pet name, but for those who chose another name, there was an option for a pet name.)

I’ll update this thread regularly with different character building categories. :sunflower:


bookmarking this~~ :woman_technologist:t5:


Part Two: Date of Birth

This one might sound insignificant, but there a quite a few things to take into consideration here.
First of all, how old is your character? Is there going to be a chapter or a scene about their birthday? How does your character feel about birthdays? Are they celebrated in their culture or religion?

If you believe in astrology (or if you don’t but your character does), you might want to choose their astrological sign first. I’m not much of a believer in astrological signs, but the MC of my story would definitely be a Leo. And July 31st seems like a fitting date of birth for her.
Now, if you do decide to give your character a birthday, make sure it doesn’t contradict your story’s timeline. Let’s say that your character mentions that their birthday is in April. Right now in your story’s timeline, you’re in September, but you have this awesome scene in mind that’s supposed to take place during your character’s birthday. Either you have to do a huge time jump to make it happen in April, or change your character’s birthday to September or October.


What if the character is in a different universe where time works differently and birthdays work differently?

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I’d assume that would be based on the plot you’ve worked out for that type of scenario…?

Fantasy and sci-fi usually defies the conventional rules of our world, so in that case, it would be a good idea to worldbuild beforehand, and work out all the rules of how the alternate universe works. :sunflower:


Bookmarking this thread!


Awesome thread :two_hearts: I envy your students haha.


I kind of have trouble with that. Like it’s hard to think of an alternative for birthdays lol.

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Can’t wait to see more tips!! :grinning::heart:


Part Three: Where are they from?

First of all, where was your character born?
Have they lived there all their life, or did they move to the town where your story takes place later in life?
What’s your character’s ethnicity? If you are planning to make your character a different ethnicity than your own, you might want to talk to someone of that ethnicity and do a little research.
But be careful not to write every single stereotype about that culture into your story.
Let’s say you want to create a Mexican character. You haven’t done any research, but you’ve met a couple of Mexicans and you’ve seen some telenovelas here and there.
You want to make her as Mexican as possible. You have her eating foods with chile all the time. She prays to the Virgen de Guadalupe whenever she has a problem. She’s got the chancla-throwing mom, the borracho uncle, they speak using typical swear words every five seconds, they’re party animals who drink tequila every weekend…
Of course, there are Mexicans that do one or all of those things! But not everyone. I know people here who don’t eat spicy food at all. Catholicism is the primary religion of Mexico, but there’s also a growing Protestant community. Not everyone swears their head off nor do they like tequila or beer. As long as you have a variety of different characters from that culture, you can include some of these things. Just not one character who follows all of the stereotypes from that culture.

Think about people you know that are from a different culture than yours. Do they adhere to all the stereotypes? Do you? So treat your character as you would a real person.


Part Four: Physical Appearance

If you write on Episode and can actually design the character the way you want them to look, or if you are a digital artist who is skilled at making realistic-looking characters, then this will probably be a lot easier for you.
What does your character look like? How do you picture them in your head?
Keep their ethnicity in mind when choosing their features.
Are they tall? Short? Skinny? Chubby? Average?
How do they wear their hair? Maybe your character is very fashionable and always likes having their hair look nice. Or maybe they’re a very active person who is always on the go and prefers practical hairstyles that don’t take much time to do.

What’s their personal dress style? Are they into designer clothing? Do they follow trends? Do they prefer comfort over style? Are they athletic, thus preferring sneakers and gym clothes? Are they into vintage clothing? Where do they shop, and how much money do they spend on clothes? Do they wear makeup and get their nails done?
Do they have a signature accessory?
In my story, Emilianna is a big fan of hoop earrings. She wears them with almost everything. However, sometimes she wears pearl studs, depending on the occasion.
Even if you can’t draw your characters, or if you don’t write on a platform that lets you design them, you can still describe your characters with as much detail as possible in your story.


Part Five: Childhood

Although you might not include flashback scenes or a time jump where the character appears as a child in the first couple of chapters, it is important to consider what their childhood was like, because a lot of their decisions and how they react to certain situations might be influenced by it.

Is your character very independent, tough, and self-sufficient? Maybe they were forced to work and make a living at a very young age in order to help make ends meet.
Is your character a spoiled brat? Perhaps their parents gave them whatever they wanted because they worked all the time and tried to fill the child’s emotional void with material things.
Is your character a workaholic? It’s possible that they grew up poor, and don’t want their children to do without as they did.
What are their fears? Could they be related to a traumatic childhood experience? Are their religious and political beliefs similar to those of their parents, or did they choose their own path because they felt that those beliefs were forced on them?
Does your character love football? Maybe their dad took them to football games often.
You might want to reference small details like this from time to time in your story.


This is a very well written thread and very useful.



Thanks! I’ll be adding more tips soon. :sunflower: :+1:t3:

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