Characters in Fiction Writing (An Outline)


  1. A character is the representation of a person. My guess is you knew that.
  2. The reader should be able to identify with and care about the characters in the sense  that  the characters seem real to the reader.
  3. The characters must do something, and what they do must seem reasonable for them to have done it.


Introduction of Characters

  1. Characters should be introduced early in the story.
  2. The more often a character is mentioned or appears, the more significance the reader will attach to the character.
  3. The main character should be introduced before setting so that the setting can be introduced from the point of view of the character.


Nature of Characters

  1. The nature of characters can be brought out through minimal description and the actions, thoughts, and dialogue of the characters.
  2. The writer should allow the reader to make judgments about the characters; the writer should avoid making the judgments for the reader.
  3. The feelings of the character should be demonstrated rather than told by the narrator.


Closing thoughts and Rules

  1. The nature of characters can be brought out through minimal description and the actions, thoughts, and dialogue of the characters
  2. The one rule about writing is that there are no rules. If it works, it works.


Sidebar – Cardboard characters: What they are and how to avoid them.

  • Cardboard characters.
    • A cardboard character is one who’s a stereotype.
    • They are a character whose every action or reaction is exactly what the reader would have guessed for the situation.
  • How to Avoid Cardboard Characters
    • Avoid them by inventing lives, backgrounds, attitudes, quirks, moods, etc. for all characters.
    • The bigger the character is, the more depth he or she gets.
    • Even the barista whose only scene is taking other characters’ order and bringing the coffee has a unique personality which needs to come out, however briefly.

Creative Commons License
Characters in Fiction Writing by Jimmie A. Kepler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Author: Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a full-time writer. He was born in San Antonio, Texas, to a career military father and stay at home mother. He lived in six states and attended eight different schools before graduating high school. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with minors in English and Military Science from The University of Texas at Arlington, Master of Arts and Master of Religious Education degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the Doctor of Education degree. Before writing full-time, he worked as a US Army officer for 10-years, religious educator for 18-years, and as an IT software application engineer for over 20-years. He is a widower. He lives in North Texas with his cat Lacey.