With World Book Day on the horizon and millions of children gearing up to dress up as their favourite book characters, this seemed the perfect time for our Get Creative feature to cover the art of creating characters.
Read on to discover 4 awesome activities to help young writers do exactly that, with suggestions of everything from games that spark inspiration, to a “getting to know you” character quiz!
1. Coming up with characters - the “What’s in the box?” props game
Ask a friend or someone in your family to pick a load of props and pop them in a box — things like hats, bags, glasses, scarves, and jewellery. Next, pick something from the box at random (no peeping!) and use it as inspiration for your character.
If you’re writing with a friend or in a group, you could play this like pass the parcel — when the music stops, pick something from the box (without looking).
Top tip: ask yourself, “what kind of person would wear a hat/scarf/necklace like this?” to start developing your character.
2. Coming up with characters - the “Picture This” game
Flick through a magazine or newspaper and stop on a page at random. If there’s a picture of a person on that page, create a character using it as your inspiration. If there isn’t, keep flicking until you find one!
3. Developing characters - create a character profile
It’s helpful to think about story characters as being like people in our real lives. In the same way that people are what make life interesting, the people in stories (characters) are what really bring stories to life and encourage readers to keep reading.
The most memorable, compelling characters in stories are usually those that seem like real people. A great way to make your own characters feel real is through detail — through thinking about their likes and dislikes, and their personality, as well as their appearance.
To start building those layers of detail, create a profile for a character like the one laid-out below. Then, when you come to write a story about them, you can refer to the profile to remember all those important details.
Name and age - When deciding what to call your character think about whether their name reveals something about where they’re from, their age, or what kind of person they are, like superhero names!
Occupation (if they’re old enough to have a job!)
Where do they live? - this could be the setting of your story, so you might want to think about what country they live in, whether they live in a village or city, or maybe something stranger like a secret underground cave, or a creepy castle in the woods!
Appearance - think about things like your character’ size, shape, hair, and eyes. What clothes are they wearing? Think about what their clothes could reveal about their personality.
Hobbies – what do they love doing in their spare time?
What’s their biggest dream?
What are they scared of?
Write down three adjectives to describe your character’s personality – this means you need to think about what kind of person your character is. Are they thoughtful, funny, silly or sad? Are they brave, kind, adventurous or timid? Are they selfish or grumpy? And so on!
4. Developing characters - the “getting to know” you quiz
To make your characters feel real, you need to know them as well as you know your family and friends! To help you get to know your characters in-depth, answer the following questions:
1. A cat is stuck up a tree. What does your character do?
a) Climb the tree and rescue it
b) Call for help
d) Run way and pretend they never saw it
2. Your character accidently breaks something in a museum. How do they react?
a) They flee from the scene and pretend it never happened
b) They blame it on someone else
c) They immediately own up and offer to pay for the damages
d) They immediately own up (and pray they don’t have to pay for the damages!)
3. Your character accidently parps in the cinema. What do they do?
a) They explode with laughter
b) They sink into their seat, hoping no one noticed the source of the sound (and smell)
c) They blame someone else
d) They blame it on the seat
4. Your character has forgotten to buy their mum, dad, granny or granddad a birthday present. What do they do?
a) Get crafty and make the perfect present
b) Convince their brother or sister to let them give a joint present
c) Fess up and promise to buy something very soon
d) Bake a cake
For more creative inspiration and activities, check out the rest of our Get Creative series.
Joanne Owen is a writer and publishing professional with over twenty years’ experience of the book industry, and the author of a how-to children’s guide to creative writing, You Can Write Awesome Stories. Alongside writing and reviewing books, she hosts writing workshops and is an Editorial Expert for LoveReading.