How To Write Compelling Characters

Building a character can be a daunting task. Physical attributes and quirks often come easily to writers, but carving emotional depth and character complexities can feel overwhelming. I’m a firm believer in knowing as much about your character as possible, but what’s the point of knowing your character’s favorite type of pizza when your story is set in medieval France? Not all knowledge has the same weight. So what do I suggest?

My number one tip for building characters that enthrall readers is this: 

  • Assign your character a personality type.

Why do I need to know my character’s personality type?

To better understand the character you’re crafting, you need to have a firm comprehension of how they think. I majored in psychology in college and find the subtle nuances of the human mind combating external stressors to be fascinating. As writers, we want our characters to have external and internal goals. We want them to wrestle, fail and (hopefully by the end of your book) overcome. A character’s reaction to conflict needs to be just as impactful as the conflict itself. Every personality type approaches conflict differently. Knowing how your character would handle stressful events will help you craft a better story. 

How do I find my character’s personality type?

When I say assign to your character a personality type, I don’t mean simply mean vague attributes like clever, brooding, or shy. Taking an online personality test is the best way to do this. I personally suggest taking the Meyers-Briggs 16 personality test and reading the results for yourself before venturing into choosing one for your character. (Also a great way to explore your own strengths and weakness)

Here’s one of the best sites to take the test: 

Once you’ve chosen what personality type you want your character to have, then it’s time to explore. Do research on the personality type you chose and make a list of attributes, strengths, and weaknesses you want your character to embody. 

Here’s a bonus tip:

Take inspiration from other characters with the same personality type.

For example: If you’ve chosen the ENTJ personality type for your character then find characters in movies, tv shows, and literature with the same type to deep dive into how they react to stress.

Two ENTJ characters in YA Fantasy are:

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows 

Jude Duarte from the Cruel Prince.

Here’s an excellent website to help with the research: 

Hope this helps you craft memorable characters.

Series: How To Write Compelling Characters: The Psychology of Character Creation


Up Next: How to Write an INTJ Character