Writing advice blog: developing a character

Susie Helme

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Here are two great exercises toward developing your character:

Character motivations establish the reader-character connection, and motivations reveal something about character.

  1. Examine your character’s motivations in terms of their needs by referring to Maslow’s hierarchy.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: 1. Physiological 2. Safety and security 3. Love and belonging 4. Accomplishment and self-esteem 5. Self-actualisation

Your Protagonist has needs within each of these categories, and their defining Motivation—that which drives them to achieve the Story Goal—should be based on a specific one of these needs from Maslow. As the Plot develops, so does your Character Arc, so these needs can evolve over time.[1]

  • Put yourself in the mind of your Protagonist and take this test from their point of view:


You can take the same test in the mind of your Antagonist or secondary characters.

This will give you a wealth of information you can use to Show us your character. Are they extrovert or introvert? Intuitive or observant? Thinking or feeling? Judging or prospecting? Assertive or turbulent?

For example, quite unlike me (the author)—I’m INFP-T, a Mediator—my Protagonist Isabeau is ENFJ-A, a Protagonist. She pushes others further than they’re ready or willing to go, feels others’ problems as her own, needs conversations about mutual feelings, etc.

Her girlfriend Layla is INTJ-T, an Architect. She analyses things non-stop, likes her privacy, is not good at offering comfort, is not prone to displays of affection, etc.

The results of the test can even suggest what sorts of arguments the characters would have. Isabeau want reassurance about Layla’s feelings, where Layla wants Isabeau to give her space. etc.

[1] From https://www.well-storied.com/blog

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