Character Creation: 5 Qualities

There are various approaches towards the character creation and algorithms to make the hero interesting for the reader. A hero needs to have: a mystery, disadvantage, treasure and a goal. If the hero has these qualities, people want to be like him or her, and this is a good character for a film or a book.   

Book Character

Or, for instance, James N. Frey in his book “How to Write a Damn Good Mystery” says that a detective hero needs to have the following qualities: bravery, professionalism, special talent, ingenuity and intelligence; additionally, he needs to have a wound, be an outlaw and do selfless deeds. 

Other lists of that kind can be mentioned here, too.

But all of them have the key imperfection: they are targeted towards formalizing qualities of the main character, and they are not flexible. When looking at such a list, I want to ask: “What, each of my 62 novel heroes should be like that?” That does not burn a fire… But you can’t proceed without a method, too. At least if a structured approach to the story development is close to you.  

The answer was found in the lecture by Paul Brown.

He supposed a hero to have five bright qualities. This quantity is enough to make a character shaped and deep. You can choose any qualities. But when you set the goal to think out five qualities for any character, even for a secondary one, you understand and clarify this character in your mind anyway.

Character Creation

Paul Brown offers going further. Any character is interesting when having a “false bottom”, when he or she hides something. Humans never show their real “self” to others, they hide it under the mask. And the scenic approach works here, too: it is always interesting to keep an eye on a person when they have a strange and wondering bright feature.

So, we’ve got five qualities:

  • Quality 1;
  • Quality 2;
  • A mask (something a character shows to others);
  • A mystery (something they hide from everybody);
  • A strange feature.

This gives you a scheme which is definite and flexible at the same time.

Can a character have more than five bright features? Yes, especially the main heroes. Five mean a minimum to give them depth.

Is it obligatory to determine a mask, strange and a mysterious feature? No… and yes. In this case, your character will be more trustworthy from the psychological point of view, and this could make them interesting. Strange features guarantee the reader to memorize your characters.

Do these qualities influence the interaction between the characters? Yes. When two characters communicate with each other, they show their masks and become nervous when it seems to them that their mysterious feature is touched.

Novel Writing

Some Character Quality Examples

Character 1:

  • Estimates himself adequately, with no illusions, and he is honest at all;
  • Understands people better than other men of his age (has wisdom beyond his years). This feature prevents him from getting into gambles;
  • Mask: the obedient son;
  • Mystery: categorically critical and negative attitude towards the decisions of the king (his father);
  • Strange feature: despite being older than other teenagers, he does not take command (because his brooding makes him a bad battle commander).

Character 2:

  • Performs roles and responsibilities exactly according to their limits.
  • Ignores his wife, but refers to his family status and children when does not want to do something;
  • Mask: seems to be very calm, thoughtful and serious;
  • Mystery: sensitive and empathizing. His father tried to remove this feature and reached his goal pretty fast;
  • Strange feature: behaves like if being a significantly older person (walks with no rush, speaks “correctly”).

Character 3:

  • A raging charismatic person (his iron-strong adhering to the law is the consequence of self-limitations);
  • Eloquent;
  • Mask: law is above everyone (that is why he perceives the possibility of “you are the king, get around the law” painfully;
  • Mystery: humanism, when possible (hides this persistently, but looks for loopholes in the laws);
  • Strange feature: thin and high sensitivity covered by the external “state” hardness.

Have a good luck using this approach! Hope the following recommendations will help you understand your own heroes deeper and use their special features to make your book really, really great. Characters are what makes the text live. Interest your readers with the characters who have features of real people: this is the only way to make them remembered by the audience.

Once more: write interesting books and create interesting characters.


Want to chat about your book?

Connect with me on Skype: JacquiM916