Following the answer of @Cyn and my comment (on Doubt about a particular point of view on how to do character creation ): I would like to know more about how to "know" more about a true alived character. Now, if you think a little bit, the one will find a particular point of view that is tricky, I mean, say for sure what is an action wrote for an character and what is an action did by them.

I'll give you an feeble example: A character walking down the street sees a person asking for help, because this person needs to find a public telephone to talk about a urgent situaton. Then I "observe" my character actions and I conclude that this character helped indeed this person.

This example illustrates, at some level, what means "put your character in a situation". I gived my character the possibility to deny a help and say no; my character choosed to help. But the outcome of this situation is something that I imagined, I mean, is my mind. How can I know that my character's choose was a some sort of "independent thought" if I've imagined that outcome?

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    Hi again. So please do not click the check mark for a couple of days. If you like a post, upvote it. You do that by clicking on the upward facing triangle to the left of the post, above the vote count. You can (and should) upvote every answer you think is good. You can also downvote ones you don't like. Ditto for questions. But please save the checkmarks (the "best answer") for after a couple days so people have a chance to answer. You can retract the "best answer" (aka "accepted answer") and reoffer it later (on your other question too). Thanks and please don't hesitate to ask for help.
    – Cyn
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 20:12
  • @Cyn I'm still getting the culture of these stack exchange foruns. Furthermore, if you would like to write a question, feel free.
    – M.N.Raia
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 20:18
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    Culture on our SE is, we do not "accept" an answer until 24-48 hours have passed since asking the question. Think about it: there are people living all around the globe who are part of this community. They'd need time to see your question and answer it, right? How can you mark an answer as "best" before you've given people the opportunity to answer? Maybe someone will say something smarter? Also, when you mark an answer as "accepted", you're telling the community you're answered, you don't need any more help. So you're missing out on more potential answers. Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 20:59
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    It does take a while to get the hang of the culture. Hopefully our comments are helpful and not too annoying :-D
    – Cyn
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 21:30
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    Give is intransitive: its past form is gave.
    – Trish
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 3:59

3 Answers 3


Your character takes an action. It all happens in your imagination.

Well, imagine then: could your character take the opposite action? Could they, proceeding with your example, choose not to help?

If right now you're thinking "maybe they were really busy"or something along those lines, you are making an excuse for your character's out-of-character action. That is, you know that normally your character wouldn't act like that, so you're trying to find an excuse about what would cause them to do it. You are familiar with your character, you can anticipate their response. They are a person in your head, the action comes from how you see that person.

If, on the other hand, the character could just as easily have chosen not to help, if they're just the same character to you, I would say they're under-imagined. What you're holding in your mind is not a person, but a pawn. You have not given it enough character, enough personhood, to have free will.

The choices we make (the big ones, not "what shall I have for breakfast") are determined by who we are, how we see the world, what kind of people we are. Also by how we feel that day and what recent experiences might affect our perception of things, but that ties into the same thing: our choices are not random. It is the same for your character - their choices are bound up in who they are, how they see the world, what kind of people they are, what affects them that day. One choice would be true to all those things, the other choice would not. If both choices appear the same to you, then you just don't know who your character is. You've got to find out who they are to understand how they would act.


A character is not a human being. A character is a construct created entirely by the author for the purpose of telling a story. This works because stories are much neater simpler things than real human life. They exist in part to allow us to escape our humdrum human lives, and in part to help us understand what human life is actually like and/or to prepare us to bear it vicissitudes.

There is certainly a school of thought in writing that says that you should create a complete biography for a character even if most of it never appears in print. But the fact that most of it never appears in print is itself proof that a character, as they appear on the page, is not a human being. And there is another school of thought that points out that some of the greatest and most memorable characters in literature are essentially known for one very particular thing, one quirk, one turn of phrase. In How Fiction Works for instance, James Wood points out that one of Dicken's most notable characters, Emma Micawber, is actually little more than a catch phrase: "I will never leave Mr. Micawber". The same thing could be said of characters like Uriah Heap who is constantly telling people how "'umble" he is. They stick in the memory, for sure, but as representation of a single human characteristic, not a whole human being.

Personally, I tend to look on characters as a collection of goals and values. The goals animate them in the story, and the values determine what they will and won't do in pursuit of their goals. It is reasonable to think of real human being in these terms as well, but in real human beings the collection of goals and values is usually large, somewhat vague, and often held and pursued quite indifferently. That won't do in characters. The story would never get going. To create a workable character you have to simplify and heighten: give them one or two fiercely desired goals and three or four well defined and fiercely held values so that they are easy to understand and can act with clarity.


Your fully realized character has an entire life story, not just what you plan to write about them in your book. They have a childhood, adolescence and adulthood. They've had relationships and passions, they endured pain and they've been shaped from it all.

If all you imagine for your character is a short time line which will be covered in your book you haven't imagined all the factors that have shaped how they think, how they interpret others. Without having thought about how all of this works together, your character is a stranger that you recognize but you don't know how they think so you can imagine them either helping or ignoring the chance to help in your example equally.

You would not expect a character who has had a lifetime of being abused and cheated to help the person when their suffering has led them to the conclusion that the only way to protect themselves is to withdraw completely and become willfully blind to everyone else.

tl dr;
A character isn't just a set of loosely connected actions and words exchanged. They are shaped by their actions so that as they choose one action the result of that action is carried forward to weigh in on their future actions.

  • I see your point and I agree with all your explanation. Furthermore, my question is also about one particular point of view of yours: "Your fully realized character has an entire life story, not just what you plan to write about them in your book. They have a childhood..." ; I'm trying to clarify some aspects about character development process, for instance: 1) The whole life time were events like passions etc.. Are these events something that I Imagined indeed? Because if so, how can you explain an "unexpected action" from someone (the character) that you imagined?
    – M.N.Raia
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 17:35
  • 2) Another widely known concept is "to predict character's actions". Well, if you imagined a life time until some point (nowadays in the life of that character), then you can "predict" an action, because you know something about the history of that person (character). But, if you imagine a character and treat the one like a friend, who are progressively telling you his history, how can you know that the character's life-time events are, in fact, character's?
    – M.N.Raia
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 17:50
  • @MarkBaker what you can say about these comments of mine here?
    – M.N.Raia
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 17:53
  • @M.N.Raia you know your character's history up to the current point and you may know certain things you want to happen for the plot in the future but you can still be surprised by where things go in the in between.
    – BKlassen
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 18:38
  • Let's continue the example of a character who has withdrawn. While you may not expect them to help someone else perhaps they notice something about the other person asking for help that reminds them of a time they were asking for help and no one noticed and breaks character to help the other person. You weren't expecting it but it makes sense and now it's starting to shape something new that you may not know yet.
    – BKlassen
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 18:38

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