Do you want to create exciting protagonists? With these five writing exercises, you will have no problem developing novel characters!

The brave Jane Eyre, the quirky Hercule Poirot, or the torn Raskolnikov – you often meet captivating characters in the world of books. Sometimes the protagonists of a novel are more exciting than the plot through which they move. Their fate binds readers to a story and makes them prefer reading to sleeping at night. A fascinating primary or secondary character is usually the driving force behind the plot. Often the main characters are confronted with conflicts and try to overcome them. Each protagonist stands out from the rest of the crowd with distinctive qualities. Be it strength, courage, cunning, or even empathy, the emphasis on certain characteristics gives your main character a profile. In many cases, the main characters undergo a transformation or change, through which they can grow throughout the plot. In this case, we also speak of a so-called entwicklungsroman (development novel).

In this article, we look at five writing exercises that will help you better understand your protagonists and develop authentic novel characters. We also tell you how to use the techniques in your writing projects effectively. Find out how to get better at developing novel characters.

Developing novel characters: 5 exercises for creative writing

The inner voice

Everyone has it, and everyone knows it, the ever-critical voice in your head that always has an opinion on everything. Authors who want to write uninhibitedly must learn how to deal with this voice. One possibility is to transform the inner critic into a character. Doing so removes the power of this voice over you and, in the best case, creates an interesting character, such as an anti-hero.

Visualise your inner critical voice. What does it look like? What does it like to do? What does it prefer to read and why? How does it move? What is it wearing?

You want to strengthen your self-confidence in writing? With these five exercises you can overcome your self-doubt!

The critical eye of the observer

In addition to being able to describe people, it is equally important to put yourself in their shoes and try to see the world through their eyes. Consider stories where characters suddenly find themselves in another person’s body or an animal’s, such as “The Hosts” by Stephenie Meyer. In each of these stories, the characters learn something about themselves.

Try to describe yourself from a character’s point of view. If you are brave, maybe even from the point of view of the character in the preceding exercise. What do you notice? How does the fictional observer perceive you? How do they react to you?

The change of perspective

Often you rack your brain about what you actually want to write about. An effective trick for new ideas is to look at the point of view of a secondary character from stories you already know. Events suddenly shine in a different light and may take on a whole new meaning through this change of perspective.

Pick a story – which one doesn’t matter – the only important thing is that you appreciate and know the story well. However, to keep the scope of the exercise manageable, we recommend short stories, fairy tales, or legends. Now replace the story’s main character and let a secondary character retell the events from their point of view. Do you notice how new stories emerge?

The double act

You should also explore their attitudes towards certain issues to understand your character better. This will reveal invaluable values and attitudes in conceiving an authentic character. To be believable, a character must always act according to their values and morals. For example, in the following exercise, consider your protagonists’ attitude towards the topic of “beauty.”

Of course, you can also exchange the topic with another one that fits better with the plot of your novel. Now work out a dialogue between two characters in which both give their opinion on the chosen topic. This exercise aims to get to know your characters better and make their actions understandable.

The art of description

First impressions count. However, your audience still misses out on many aspects of a character’s first impression. Describing characters so that no critical questions remain unanswered is essential if you want to develop authentic novel characters. Therefore, you should draw attention to your perception and observe yourself. What do you pay attention to first in a person, and which details do you usually neglect? This self-observation is essential so that you don’t describe characters in the same way over and over again. Try this exercise to uncover any biases.

Imagine a person or a figure you know well or see regularly. Now describe the chosen person and then check which aspects of the person’s appearance and/or character you have described. If you have overlooked certain characteristics, write more lines about them.

How do you create your characters? Share your tips with other writers in the comments.

Let your fingers roam freely over your keyboard!

Your team at novum publishing