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17 Character Development Exercises for Writers

Character development exercises are short forms of deliberate practice to improve your writing skills and round out your characters.

They are typically not used in the final novel, but are little extras that help you understand the personalities that you are writing.

Because for some of us, nailing down that perfect character can be hard. And to help with that, we’ve assembled 17 different exercises to improve your characters.

  • Why character exercises are important
  • A list of 17 different exercises that you can implement today
  • Examples and advice to improve your characters

Table of contents

  • Why Are Character Development Exercises Important?
  • Exercise #1: Write a FULL Description
  • Exercise #2: Play Dress Up
  • Exercise #3: Write a Description Scene Through the Character’s Eyes
  • Exercise #4: Practice Showing Emotion
  • Exercise #5: Write a “Slice of Life” Episode
  • Exercise #6: Write Other People Gossiping About Your Character
  • Exercise #7: Write a Progression Short Story
  • Exercise #8: Draw the Character
  • Exercise #9: Create a Character Profile
  • Exercise #10: Conduct a Character Interview
  • Exercise #11: Play the “Why” Game
  • Exercise #12: Create a Character Based on Someone You Know
  • Exercise #13: Imagine What Happens Before and After the Novel
  • Exercise #14: Put Them in Horrible Situations (Muahahahahah)
  • Exercise #15: Create a Timeline
  • Exercise #16: Do a Little Fan-fiction
  • Exercise #17: Use Character Writing Prompts

So why use a character development exercise in the first place?

This may be a valid question, especially for authors like myself, who just want to dive into the writing and let the characters unfold as I write.

But honestly, a little work up front can save you a load of headache afterward.

Running through a handful of these exercises will help you to:

  • Understand your character’s emotions
  • Give you practice writing in their voice and from their point of view
  • Find out what sets them apart from other characters
  • Flesh them out to create round and dynamic characters
  • Establish the relationship between your characters and the setting, or other characters
  • Deliberate practice of the process to create complex and well-written characters

In short, it’s a great way to deliberately practice writing and reduces the need to go back and do extensive revisions on your characters.

That said, this might not be the best thing to do if you’re a pantser and just want to dive in and discover your characters along the way. But it can be a great tool in your author tool belt.

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So without further ado, here are 17 of our best picks for character development exercises. 

Exercise #1 : Write a FULL Description

When it comes to writing characters, most of us focus on the facial features, things like hair color, eye color, etc.

A great way to begin getting to know your character is to do a full description of them. In a book, we might not do this to the extent you might in a creative writing exercise, which is why it’s good to practice here.

Here are some things to consider: 

  • Skin/hair/eye color
  • Do they have any warts or moles?
  • What is their hair style?
  • What is their build?
  • Do they have any scars, tattoos, etc.
  • What is their general complexion. Is their skin smooth and silky, rough and calloused, or even bruised and battered?
  • What default facial expression do they have?
  • What does he/she smell like?

Exercise #2 : Play Dress Up

What we choose to wear says a lot about a person. Someone wearing an extravagant French-style outfit from the 18th century will give you a completely different impression than a cut business suit from the 21st century.

The problem is that most authors, when they’re writing about their characters, often forget to add a lot of detail about the clothes they are wearing. It’s easy to see these things in your mind and forget that your readers don’t see what you see. They see what you write.

One way to help overcome this oversight is to continue the exercise above, but focus on clothing.

And don’t just focus on any one type, because your protagonist will most likely use several types of clothing throughout the course of your novel. Here are just some examples:

  • Travel clothing
  • Clothes for a night on the town
  • Clothes for wilderness survival
  • Combat wear

Exercise #3 : Write a Description Scene Through the Character’s Eyes

Ideally, every character should experience the same thing differently, depending on their background, their wants and desires, and their tastes.

Additionally, great prose is often written from the perspective of the character making the observation.

For example, let’s say you have two people, one who has grown up in a desert their whole life, where water is scarce, and the other who grew up in a place where water was plentiful. 

Imagine these two people on a hot day, observing a third person splashing water on their face. If you’re writing from the first character’s perspective, you could describe this as “and the man took a handful of water and wasted it on his face.” The second person might describe it this way, “I watched as the man poured the cool liquid and splashed it all over his face. I wish I were him right now.”

Do you see the difference there? In one, the character sees using water in one way as a waste, and for the other, it’s something to be sought after. 

Exercise #4 : Practice Showing Emotion

We’ve all heard the adage to “show, don’t tell,” but what does this really look like for most characters?

This is something that really only comes with practice. Once you’ve done it enough times, you’ll recognize instances where you’re saying things like “he felt hungry,” and can replace them with something like “He winced and put a hand to his stomach as it growled, and he swallowed hard.”

Character emotion is one of these areas where showing rather than telling can really enhance your novel.

Exercise #5 : Write a “Slice of Life” Episode

There are a lot of scenes in a book, and most of them have a purpose. That said, there are many scenes that probably occur in that character’s life, but that we don’t talk about because they’re not important for the story.

However, you as the author should have an idea of what happens in these less important moments.

Some examples of a “slice of life” episode might include:

  • Having dinner with family
  • Going to the bathroom
  • The morning routine
  • A conversation with a co-worker
  • Late-night conversations with a spouse
  • Cooking a meal
  • Going on vacation
  • Playing with their kids
  • Coming home a little too drunk
  • Visiting a museum

Exercise #6 : Write Other People Gossiping About Your Character

Very often, we learn more from others about ourselves that we might not have known on our own. Others can provide unique perspectives, and in some cases expose huge biases (on both sides).

For example, a proud character might not realize that he/she is proud, but it’s easy for an outside observer to spot this.

Exercise #7 : Write a Progression Short Story

In real life, people change a lot, and characters should change in stories too (most of the time). 

A great way to show this is to write a short story that examines the character at different parts of her/his life. You can focus on key moments in their life, but you could also just follow exercise #5 and focus on a few more everyday events.

The purpose of this exercise is to show how that person may have changed. Do they view the world differently as a working adult, vs as a teenager? A child? An elderly person?

What about before or after experiencing some kind of trauma?

Exercise #8 : Draw the Character

I’ll be honest, I’m not an artist. But I am a visual person, and getting some solid visuals of the character can be a huge boost in helping me understand them.

If you’re like me and really have no design skills , then finding a few photos is fine.

I’d recommend several photos though, since one might not be enough. You could have some for their face and general appearance, one for their clothes and how they look, etc.

If you know a program like Photoshop, you could even crop these together to get an even better sense of what you character looks like.

This is a great exercise for understanding the feel of a character, which is often harder to put into words.

Exercise #9 : Create a Character Profile

Imagine you work for the FBI, and you have to draft up a dossier about your character. What might that look like?

Fortunately, we’ve done a whole article about this topic, so you should definitely check that out, and also don’t forget to pick up our character profile template, which can easily help you through this process.

If you want a thorough process to identify the character’s appearance, personality, background, and more, this is the way to go. 

The best aspects to focus on are the flaws, motivations, and fears of your character. What prompts them to action? Understanding these things will help you get at the core of your character’s personality traits.

Exercise #10 : Conduct a Character Interview

Imagine you sat in a darkened room, across the table from you is your character. You can ask them anything, they won’t be offended, and they will understand the question.

What do you ask them about?

Writing a character interview is almost like writing yourself into a short story where you get to personally meet your character and ask them questions.

This is huge for helping you understand the character’s voice, but also a good strategy for building solid character backstory and character traits.

To help, we’ve already assembled over 200 character development questions that can aid you in this process.

Exercise #11 : Play the “Why” Game

This goes along with the idea of an interview, but sometimes in order to dig really deep into the motivations of your character, you’ve got to ask why.

Is your character aggressive? Ask them why. 

From there you might find out that his mother shouted at him as a kid, and he saw his parents fight a lot. Ask why.

You might learn that his father had a drinking problem and it meant that his mother took it out on him. Ask why.

From there, it might come out that his father had lost a lot of money in a business deal, leading him to turn to drink.

I hope you get the idea. The more you ask why, the more you’ll dig deeper into your character’s past, and the better you will understand them.

Exercise #12 : Create a Character Based on Someone You Know

This can be a little dangerous, because to be honest, most of the people we know are not that interesting. And we also want to avoid lawsuits for defamation if the comparison is too obvious.

That said, the people we know can be a huge inspiration to pick and choose ideas to incorporate into your characters.

For example, my own father and uncle have a really fun way of talking to each other. They’re always ribbing on each other and calling eachother weird, made-up names. You can tell that they love each other, but it’s an uncommon way of showing it.

This might make a good relationship between two people in a book.

Exercise #13 : Imagine What Happens Before and After the Novel

The writer is mostly concerned with what happens during the plot of her novel. But if written well, a character will feel like they exist long before and long after the pages of the book.

So it’s a good idea to try dreaming up what happens to these characters in that time. 

It can be dramatic, or it can be mundane. Impactful, or ordinary. It doesn’t matter much. All that matters is that you have a past and future in mind for that character (unless you plan to kill them off of course).

And who knows, you might even come up with some good ideas for other books involving those characters.

Exercise #14 : Put Them in Horrible Situations (Muahahahahah)

I’ve heard it said that you should basically put your characters through hell in a story, and never let up.

While this is good advice, it’s not always practical. That said, putting your characters through the meat-grinder is a great way to learn how they react to conflict.

These scenarios don’t have to be trials you will actually use in your novel. These are just different ways to put your character in pain and see how they react (I know I sound like a very unethical scientist, don't @ me).

Here are some possibilities:

  • The loss of a loved one
  • A diagnosis of cancer
  • The loss of a limb
  • Getting tortured
  • Breaking up with the love of their life
  • Losing everything they own
  • Being betrayed by a friend

Exercise #15 : Create a Timeline

Sometimes it’s hard to keep every part of a character’s life straight. That’s where a timeline can be helpful.

A timeline is a simple list of events in the character’s life, though they can get more complex and interesting, and you can even put some design skills to work if you want.

But timelines only have to be a simple list of events. They can include events from before their birth to their death, or they can be focused on a specific period of their life.

It will depend on the character and the story you will want to tell.

Exercise #16 : Do a Little Fan-fiction

When we’re writing a story, we might not have a full grasp on it yet, and that’s where writing fan fiction can help.

Imagine your character interacting with characters from a story you already know? Imagine the ultimate crossover between your story and your favorite franchise.

For example, what Hogwarts house would your character belong in? What might it look like when he/she is sorted and interacts with other characters in that house or other characters from the Harry Potter books.

It’s a great way to lean on characters you already know, to help unveil more about the characters you’re trying to discover.

Exercise #17 : Use Character Writing Prompts

There are a bunch of character-related creative writing prompts out there, and many of them can be quite helpful in getting your brain to think outside of the box.

In theory, we could have a list much longer than 17 if we wanted to include more of these prompts, but that would end up being too much.

Instead, I recommend this post , or checking out our list of character questions to give you ideas.

Final Thoughts on Character Development Exercises

If you’ve made it far, first of all, well done.

Second of all, you might be a little overwhelmed, but don’t worry. This list is not meant to be a checklist for everything you should do to expand on your characters.

Instead, this is a handful of ideas that you can take (or leave) and use them to better understand your characters.

As you apply these exercises, I can pretty much guarantee that you will grow as a writer, become more familiar with your characters, and increase your chances of having a great dynamic character in your books.

Let us know how it goes!

Jason Hamilton

When I’m not sipping tea with princesses or lightsaber dueling with little Jedi, I’m a book marketing nut. Having consulted multiple publishing companies and NYT best-selling authors, I created Kindlepreneur to help authors sell more books. I’ve even been called “The Kindlepreneur” by Amazon publicly, and I’m here to help you with your author journey.

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Character writing: Complete guide to creating your cast

Creating characters who spring to life on the page is vital for filling your story with people your readers can love, despise, relate to. Read a complete guide to creating characters.

  • Post author By Jordan
  • 11 Comments on Character writing: Complete guide to creating your cast

creative writing character building

This character writing guide is a one-stop resource for creating types of characters in fiction. Learn key characterization terms, how to develop characters, how to write stronger character descriptions, and more. Use the links to jump to the character writing subtopic you want to explore now.

Character terms: Key concepts

Read useful character definitions plus a concise explanation of important concepts in character writing.

To develop characters to cast your story, it helps to understand what is:

A figure in a book, play, film or video game or other media. They may be human (e.g. Anna Karenina), animal (e.g. Beatrix Potter), hybrid, alien, or an anthropomorphic object (e.g. Mr Potato Head in Toy Story ).

We also use the word to describe the qualities and traits that create personality or persona. For example, we say a very giving or altruistic person has a ‘selfless character’.


The way a character is built through narration and other dramatic and narrative devices (such as voice, action, reaction, habits, strengths, flaws and other details).

Character development

Often used synonymously with characterization – the way a character grows and changes (’round’ characters develop whereas ‘flat’ characters like Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote don’t and are more static).

Short for ‘goal, motivation and conflict’ this term (popularized by Debra Dixon in GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict ) refers to core elements of character development.

Goals are what characters want, motivations why they want then, and conflict the obstacles (internal or external) that complicate the path to success.

Character arc

The change process a character undergoes in a story due to its events. Character arcs include the rising and falling action (or peaks and valleys) of setback and disaster (valley) or progress and triumph (peak).

Many arcs are archetypal and common to many stories, such as ‘rags to riches’ (e.g. the character arc of ‘Cinderella’).

Character background that informs who your character already is when your story picks up (it may be alluded to, shown in flashbacks, or not shown but used by the author to inform a character’s personality and actions and reactions).

Recommended reading

  • Direct vs indirect characterization: How to show and tell
  • Character background: 7 tips to write better backstory
  • Characters of personality: 7 concepts for richer stories

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Nothing shows a man’s character more than what he laughs at. Goethe

Organize and outline character ideas

Use Now Novel’s story dashboard to brainstorm character ideas and get help from a caring critique community.

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Character types: Roles and parts in stories

7 types of character - infographic

There are many character types, archetypes, and sometimes even stereotypes. Specific kinds of characters go with specific genres (for example, an amateur sleuth belongs in a cozy mystery).

Read a brief overview of character types plus find helpful articles exploring classes of character (and how to write them) in depth:

Overview of common character types

Archetypes are universal types of characters that recur in fiction and mythology.

The Swiss psychoanalytic theorist Carl Jung was instrumental in developing this concept, particularly in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious .

Key character archetypes and what each values:

  • Caregiver – values service
  • Ruler – values control
  • Artist – values creativity/innovation
  • Innocent – values safety
  • Explorer – values freedom
  • Everyman – values belonging
  • Jester – values pleasure
  • Lover – values intimacy
  • Hero – values mastery
  • Magician – values power
  • Outlaw – values liberation
  • Sage – values knowledge

Learn more about archetypes:

Character archetypes - Now Novel on archetypal characters

Character archetypes: How to enrich your novel’s cast

Learn about archetypal characters and using this concept to finesse goals.

Story archetypes blog post header

Types of stories: 7 archetypes (and ways to use them)

Learn about story archetypes such as ‘Rags to Riches’ and ways to use them.


Stereotypes are clichés that may be harmful or offensive to people with specific identities or histories in how they tend to ignore, oversimplify or ‘flatten’ human complexity. They are often used for ‘edgy’ or politically incorrect humor.

Often they have complex political or even propagandistic undertones. For example, the trope of the ‘angry black woman’ is often criticized for falsely representing BIPOC women as inherently aggressive in a way that dismisses history or the nuances and responsibilities of representation.

Another stereotype that is that sometimes found in writing is that which is concerned with LGBTIQ+ characters . Avoid tropes such as the ‘sissy villain’ or ‘gay best friend’, for instance.

Learn more about avoiding simplistic stock character types: Character tropes: 5 tips to avoid stock types .

Round vs flat characters

‘Round’ or three-dimensional characters are often compared to ‘flat’ characters who don’t have as much change or development.

‘Pip’, the hero of Dickens’ Great Expectations is an example of the round type. He changes as his fortunes and personal wealth change, from a scared orphan crying in a graveyard at the story’s start to a ‘new money’ young man in fancy clothes thanks to a mysterious benefactor.

This character type is typical of a bildungsroman or coming-of-age story like Dickens’ novel. A flat character like Sherlock Holmes may go through diverse story scenarios but tends not to change or develop much in persona. They may have catchphrases they always say, such as ‘elementary, my dear Watson’, or stock phrases such as James Bond’s martini order.

Flat characters are often the comforting constant in a sea of change.


Protagonists or main/primary characters are the primary decision-makers in a story who propel its action.

Stories may have one or more protagonists, and they are often discussed alongside antagonists . A protagonist may be a hero (in that they pursue the greater good or uphold values that are societal norms) or antihero (for example, a protagonist who commits murder like Rodion Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment ).

Learn more about writing strong protagonists:

Protagonist Examples | Now Novel

Protagonist examples: Creating memorable main characters

Learn what makes main characters memorable and how to write protagonists.

creative writing character building

  • Main character writing: 6 ideas for a strong key cast

Learn how to write a main characters with tips to ensure a strong key cast.


Antagonists are primary opponents whose desires compete with or oppose the protagonist’s own.

For example, the stepmother with her jealousy and poison apple in Snow White .

Learn more about writing antagonists:

Antagonist examples from books | Now Novel

Antagonist examples: How to write great adversaries

Learn from antagonists in novels and what they teach us.

creative writing character building

Main antagonists: How to write real opponents

How do you write an opponent who seems real? Find out.

Secondary characters

These are peripheral or important characters who may fulfil important roles to main characters such as:

  • Friend/confidant
  • Mentor/guardian
  • Sidekick/henchman (depending on whether allied to the protagonist or antagonist)
  • Love interest (though this may also be a protagonist, especially if they are a primary viewpoint narrator during the story – more on this below)

The above types of secondary characters are involved secondary characters because they take part in the action.

Non-involved secondary characters include extras (for example the crowd in a stadium, maybe briefly described) and walk-ons (characters who pass through the story and fulfil a set purpose, for example the ‘friendly innkeeper’ type).

Learn more about the uses of background characters: Writing background characters: 5 uses

Genre-specific character types

In addition to the broad types above, there are character types specific to different genres (though not all the types below necessarily appear, for example, a hero might not have a sidekick):

  • Romance: Romantic leads, friends, rivals
  • Comedy: ‘Straight man’ or foil (the serious character who contrasts a comedic part or goof )
  • Fantasy: Hero/heroine, villain, sidekick, guardian/mentor
  • Crime thriller: Detective, police officer, victim/survivor, witness, suspect
  • Mystery: Sleuth/detective (pro or amateur), suspect, lead
  • Science fiction: Scientist, (space) explorer, cyber expert, inventor
  • Action: Hero/heroine, villain, adversary, sidekick, love interest

The treatment of these different character types is often guided by genre. For example, a love interest in an action story may simply provide the protagonist something (or someone) to fight for, to risk losing.

In romance, by contrast, the unfolding romantic relationship is at the center of the story – the action overall revolves around the relationship (and not necessarily beating ‘the bad guys’).

  • Writing a heroic journey: 8 tips for epic arcs
  • Types of antagonists: Creating riveting opponents
  • Creating dynamic characters and static types: 7 ideas
The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always, ‘What does the protagonist want?’ David Mamet

Character ideas: Ways to come up with your cast

Finding character ideas for a story is a lot easier once you have a central idea, your story’s premise or scenario.

Use the ‘Central Idea’ prompt process in Now Novel’s story dashboard to brainstorm and finesse a story idea to start.

Once you have your story idea, to find character ideas and finesse them:

Create character profiles

Think of a character profile like an ID that tells way more than age, gender, birthdate and birthplace.

You could create a PDF for each character and save these to Google Drive and create a spreadsheet with links to each document (our downloadable story PDF grows as your ideas do, with pagination and clear sections for each character).

Organize your character research and brainstorming so that you can refresh your memory on what you’ve already established for your characters easily. This is especially useful if you’re writing a series or epic with a large or revolving cast of characters.

‘Reverse cast’ your story

Look at Pinterest boards or use AI image creation tools like This Person Does Not Exist to find inspiration for the look, feel and style of a character.

Build characters from your scenario

Read through your story idea summary and brainstorm characters whose goals, motivations and conflicts align to your idea (keep reading for more on GMC and how to use it to develop characters).

  • Novel characters: 15 top character creation tips
  • How to write character profiles: 10 tips and a template
  • Character profiles: 5 questions for a detailed cast

Ways to come up with characters - infographic

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature. Ernest Hemingway

Character development: Creating characters who change

In great stories, who, what, why, where and when change in meaningful ways.

Developing characters ensures your reader will go on a journey with emotional highs and lows.

Learn about core drivers of character development – goal, motivation and conflict – as well as how to create character arcs with structure and satisfying shape in this section.

Character development - 7 elements infographic

Character goals: What the cast of your story wants

Goals in developing characters are crucial. Your characters may have several types of goals as your story progresses. For example:

  • Initial goals: The first steps your characters must take, what they need to achieve in the opening scene of your story
  • Surprise goals: Spur-of-the-moment decisions characters make, new plans that arise out of setbacks, conflicts, and unexpected events
  • End goals: Your characters’ ultimate objectives (such as Frodo destroying the One Ring).

Learn more about characters and desire in storytelling:

Character development - 9 tips for character arcs | Now Novel

Character development: 9 tips for arcs with depth

Learn how to give your character arcs dimension and depth.

creative writing character building

How to develop a character: 7 simple steps

Read seven steps to ensure your characters develop in your story.

Motivations: Why characters want what they do

Motivations are crucial to creating a character and their goals. Why people desire things is intrinsically linked to their broader story, beliefs and emotions.

A despotic king, for example, might demand total obedience because he fears rebellion and wants to stay in power.

Your characters’ motivations might arise from one or more of the following:

  • Beliefs, whether true or false (for example, an archetypal caregiver such as a nurse in WWII may believe in the good of caring for the injured)
  • Backstory and formative experiences (a person may work doubly hard for success or self-sabotage due to what they’ve been through)
  • Basic necessity such as the need for sustenance, freedom, shelter, love, etc – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  • Personality and values For example the ‘Explorer’ archetype might seek out wild adventure for the thrill of the unknown

Learn more about creating characters with compelling motivations:

Understanding character motivations | Now Novel

Character motivations: 6 questions

Read questions on what drives characters.

creative writing character building

100 character development questions

Find character questionnaires to flesh out arcs.

Conflicts between characters (and within)

Conflict is equally crucial to developing characters in stories. In Greek mythology, Hercules becomes the hero precisely through completing tough tasks that test his ingenuity and resolve.

In this part of this guide, we’ll explore types of conflict that drive character development.

Two conflict types in fiction: Internal and external

There are two broad categories of conflict in stories: Internal conflict, and external conflict.

Internal conflict

Internal conflict is your character’s inner struggle . It may arise from:

  • Contradictory desires (such as ‘being the hero’ versus ‘staying safe’)
  • Flaws or wounds (for example, a dancer who had a bad experience with a teacher may be hesitant to keep pursuing their passion)
  • Beliefs or doubts that impede action (for example, someone who is given a quest or task who does not yet believe in their own ability)

External conflict

External conflict refers to conflict between characters (or between a character and their environment, society, or other external sources). It arises from many sources including:

  • Conflicting desires between characters (for example, a relationship where one spouse wants to emigrate but the other does not)
  • Conflicting goals (for example, a hero must destroy an object that is the antagonist’s only hope of returning to power)
  • Hostility of environment or society (for example, a woman in a patriarchy struggles against the narrow or oppressive gender roles prescribed, like in The Handmaid’s Tale )

How does conflict develop characters?

Conflict develops characters because it:

  • Supplies stakes or ‘worst case scenarios’ should your character fail (for example, an out-of-work character being evicted if they can’t find a job)
  • Makes characters’ path toward victory more uncertain (and thus often requires personal change or mastery)
  • Makes action necessary for resolution: Conflict is unsustainable, forcing characters to act if they are to find peace, shelter, safety or harmony

Learn more about internal and external conflict and character development:

  • External and internal conflict: Examples and tips
  • How to use central conflict and drama to drive your novel
  • Creating villain motivations: Writing real adversaries
  • Writing character backstory that feels real: 5 tips
  • Development of characters: 6 intriguing ways we change
  • Character arc template: 5 steps to strong character arcs
  • How do you write character growth? 7 tips

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Characters and conflict: Driving change and stakes

We examined the two main types of conflict between characters above. In this section learn about types of conflict that could drive your story’s action.

Key types of conflict between characters include:

  • A struggle with self (often called ‘man vs self’). Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a classic example of this kind (a legal practitioner investigates a man with a dangerous, urge-compelled alter ego).
  • Person vs person conflict (also known as ‘man vs man’). This is a very common type of conflict in epic fantasy in which a hero faces off against a powerful magician or tyrant (e.g. Frodo vs Sauron in Tolkien’s famous fantasy cycle).
  • Person vs nature is a classic type of conflict common in survival and adventure stories (such as, for example, The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, or the survival drama 127 Hours ).
  • Person vs society Some characters face not just a single foe but a society in opposition to fundamental desires or needs. A classic example of this is the ostracized Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter .

Learn more about types of conflict, external and internal, and how to use them to create interesting adversity in stories:

creative writing character building

Using conflicts in a story: 6 helpful conflict examples

Read about 6 core types of conflict in fiction.

creative writing character building

Making external conflict compelling: 6 ideas

Learn ways to make external conflicts in stories engaging.

Learn more about types of conflict your characters may encounter:

  • Person vs society: 6 types of story conflict
  • 6 intriguing conflict types in fiction: Man vs nature
  • 6 conflict types in fiction: Man vs self
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. Toni Morrison

Describing characters: Bringing fictive people to life

Character description is intertwined with character development. The stories of our lives and experiences are written on our bodies and in our speech. In this section of this guide, learn how to create vivid, varied character descriptions.

Ways to describe characters

There are almost infinitely varied ways to describe your characters, including:

  • Physical features such as faces, bodies, the clothing your characters wear, the personal ways different characters might style the same outfit
  • Movement and gesture such as posture, gait, habitual poses and expressions
  • Voice including your characters’ vocal timbre and pitch, diction (how formally or informally they speak), accent and dialect. Written characters differ from film because narration provides voice too, not only spoken dialogue (or the occasional voiceover)
  • Actions your characters’ actions describe their personality because they reveal personality traits (such as loving drama or being loyal, valuing others’ trust or deceiving whoever they can to get ahead)

See how to describe characters in varied ways with the help of these resources:

How to describe - complete guide header

How to describe to immerse readers (complete guide)

Read a complete guide to writing description with examples from varied genres.

creative writing character building

How to describe a person vividly: 8 ways

Learn how to write descriptions that build personality and more.

Physical description

  • How to describe eyes in a story: 7 simple tips
  • Character posture: How to describe characters’ bearing
  • How to describe hands: 6 ways to make characters real
  • How to describe clothing in a story (with examples)
  • Describing characters: How to describe faces imaginatively
  • Character mannerisms: Describing character quirks and tics

How to describe voice and speech

  • Realistic dialogue: Creating characters’ speech patterns
  • Character voices: How to write persona using voice
  • How to write accents and dialects: 6 tips

How to create characters’ personalities

  • What are good character traits? 7 helpful attributes
  • Character flaw list: 30 intriguing character flaws

General characterization

  • How do you write good character description? 5 techniques
  • Direct characterization: 6 tips for precise description
  • Indirect characterization: Revealing characters subtly
  • How to create a believable character: 8 tactics
  • How to introduce characters: 6 ways to be memorable
  • Characterization examples: 5 ways to reveal characters

How to Write Scenes Free Guide


Read a guide to writing scenes with purpose that move your story forward.

Narration and POV: Who tells your story?

The narrator is the person or voice telling the story.

If your narrator is an involved character (and not a neutral narrating fly-on-the-wall voice), we say the story has an involved narrator . When you have an involved narrator, how your narrator tells the story (their language, voice, tone) builds characterization, too .

Point of view and types of narrator

Point of view (abbreviated to POV) refers to both whose point of view the story is told from, and the person used (for example, first-person narration using ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ versus third person using ‘he’, ‘she’, plural ‘they’ or gender neutral).

The point of view you choose for your story has specific character effects.

For example, if you use a first-person narrator, you can only tell the reader what that character knows, assumes, or makes up, while they are the viewpoint narrator (the person currently telling the story). Unlike an omniscient narrator , the first-person narrator cannot share other people’s private thoughts (unless they are a mind-reader).

How to create characterization via narration:

  • Think about worldview or outlook: What is your narrator’s personality, politics, value system? How does this affect what they share?
  • Bring in backstory or vocation: A visual artist may be more specific than others when describing colors, for example, or may use more metaphors borrowed from visual art
  • Think about demographics: Where is your character from, and what is their age, class position, gender identity? Are any other demographic details significant? These may inflect their narrative voice ( or their narrative voice might not immediately give away one or more of these details)

Learn more about ways to build characterization via narration:

  • How to write deep POV: 8 tips and examples
  • How to write multiple points of view in a novel: 8 tips
  • Point of view: Complete guide to POV in stories
  • Building a bold narrator’s voice: 5 methods
  • The unreliable narrator: Creating surprise in your story
In a portrait, you have room to have a point of view and to be conceptual with a picture. The image may not be literally what’s going on, but it’s representative. Annie Leibovitz

Character questions: Prompts to populate your story

Character questions and questionnaires provide a useful way to delve deeper into your characters.

In our writing webinars, Now Novel writing coach Romy Sommer compares what you include about your character in your story to the tip of an iceberg. What the reader sees might not be everything you’ve dreamed and invented. Yet beneath the surface, there’s that depth, that anchoring.

Character questionnaire example

The first version of Now Novel’s story dashboard (revised 2018) included 15 categories of character questions to flesh out ideas for your cast:

  • Demographics : E.g. ‘How old is this character?’
  • Appearance : E.g. ‘In what style do they wear their hair?’
  • Character specific : E.g. ‘Why is this character dissatisfied?’
  • Work: E.g. ‘What do they do for a living?’
  • Relaxation: E.g. ‘What are this character’s hobbies?’
  • Food: E.g. ‘What kind of food do they like eating?
  • Stuff: E.g. ‘What would they grab if their home were on fire?’
  • Home: E.g. ‘Describe their living space’
  • Family: E.g. ‘Are their parents still alive?’
  • Childhood: E.g. ‘Did they have a happy or unhappy childhood? Explain.’
  • Friends: E.g. ‘Who is their best friend?’
  • Relationships: E.g. ‘What is the thing they argue about most in relationships?’
  • Money: E.g. ‘What is their relationship to money like?’
  • Fears: E.g. ‘What is their greatest fear?’
  • Demeanor/personality: E.g. ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how annoying do others find them?’

Not all of the above questions will be relevant for your character. Yet filling in questionnaires such as the above is a great way to get to know your characters as though they are real (and avoid the caricatures Hemingway warns about).

Read more questions to develop your characters:

  • Character development questions: Building character arcs
  • 6 creative writing exercises for rich character
  • 50 creative writing prompts to enrich your craft

What is a character writing question you’ve been thinking about? Share it in the comments. Start brainstorming characters now and outline and draft scenes with your character outlines in a helpful sidebar in the Now Novel Writing Pad or in Google Docs with our Docs add-on .

Now Novel is a great platform for all writers to check out – especially for plotting, brainstorming, characterisation and even world building. Their customer service is top notch and I highly recommend NN! – MJ


Related Posts:

  • Writing fantasy: Creating a spellbinding story…
  • Character archetypes: How to enrich your novel's cast
  • Tags character development , how to create characters

creative writing character building

Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.

11 replies on “Character writing: Complete guide to creating your cast”

Many thanks. Had I read this post before writing my competition entry, i would have known better how to write a vivid description of a person.

It’s a pleasure, Ohita. Sorry for the delayed response – Disqus’ notification system is a little erratic. Glad you enjoyed it.

You should write a book about writing a book:))

That was gooooooooooooooooood!

yeah, I totally agree with @Mari@mariefeierabend:disqus , you gotta make a book about it!

btw recently seen this one too actually couldn’t resist the temptation to share ahahahha I liked it so much too)

[…] and particular. Instead of describing a character who ‘loves freedom’, for example, describe a character’s actions and experiences that demonstrate this love of freedom. This gives readers a more visual and empathetic […]

Do or have any advice for characters who are based off of a real person?

Hi Katie, thank you for your question. It’s quite a broad one but I would say:

  • Do your research: What can you find out about the person that may surprise readers?
  • Be careful with living people – if the person is still living, you could run into issues around privacy/defamation (if the character does anything unsavory, for example). If necessary, change enough details (particularly the name) to make the identity of the person more ambiguous.
  • Make a list of features or a character profile as though they were a fictional character. Think about their greatest strengths and flaws, their backstory and what their core goals, motivations and conflicts may be leading into your story.

[…] Read advice on how to write better characters. […]

I like to make characters

how can you make a character. thank you ms. yanezz

Hi Stephanie, thank you for your question. Is there a specific aspect of character creation you’re finding challenging? One way to find character ideas Now Novel writing coach Romy suggested in a webinar was to create a Pinterest board and pin images of interesting faces and people as character inspirations, and to use these images as starting points for brainstorming personality details, goals, motivations, etc.

You can find all of our character-writing articles here .

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How to create vivid characters for your novel or screenplay

Character profile for a novel

Follow this step-by-step guide to learn the modern process of developing fictional characters in Milanote, a free tool used by top creatives.

How to create a character in 8 easy steps

One of the most integral parts of any story is crafting relatable and vivid characters. As writer Ernest Hemingway said, “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

The character profile is a popular technique for developing genuine personas for your story. Depending on the project or person, some stories are born out of a character, while others begin with a plot that in turn shapes the characters. A detailed character profile will help to shape a narrative as well as provide a handy reference point for their personality traits, backstory, goals, flaws, and challenges.

Whether you’re developing a character for your novel, screenplay, video game , or comic, this guide will take you through every step to bring them to life.

1. Start with a character archetype

A character might start as a bundle of random ideas, traits and plot points from a story outline, so it’s important to bring everything together in one place. A character archetype can help narrow your focus. There are twelve common archetypes or personas that we recognize across literature, mythology, and the human experience: The Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Outlaw, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Lover, Caregiver, Jester, and Sage.

Archetypes provide guidelines for behaviors, emotions, and actions. For example, the Explorer is naturally curious, restless, and driven to push boundaries, such as detective Sherlock Holmes or Huckleberry Finn. Experiment with your archetype—layer characteristics or even transform them from one to another as the storyline progresses.

Photo of a character for a novel

Create a new board for your character profile.

Create a new board

Drag a board out from the toolbar. Give it a name, then double click to open it.

Add an image to represent your character.

Upload a file or document  

Click the "Upload file" button or just drag a file onto your board. You can add images, logos, documents, videos, audio, and much more.

2. Add specific characteristics

Once you've defined an initial archetype, you can begin to shape the character and make them original. Consider the emotional connection between your audience and your character, and work towards the desired outcome. You may find that switching the age and gender of a character can lead to very different responses from your reader. Here are a few other examples you could use to create a unique character:

  • Adventurous and thrill-seeking
  • Absent-minded and often lost in thought
  • Compassionate and empathetic
  • Obsessed with solving crossword puzzles or riddles
  • Intelligent and analytical
  • Witty and sarcastic
  • Ambitious and driven
  • Introverted and introspective
  • Charismatic and charming
  • Meticulous and detail-oriented

Writers character profile guide step02

Add a note to describe their charactaristics.

Drag a note card onto your board

Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left-hand toolbar.

3. Build the backstory

Your character's backstory describes the journey they have taken up to this point. It allows you to explore their fears, weaknesses, and motivations and to define their purpose. You can explain the character's methods and evaluations—why they act the way that they do, the choices they make, and how it drives the individual forward. Are they making progress towards their goal, or making things worse?

To really round out the character, give them a personality that stretches beyond the story itself. Some aspects of their personality will not make it into the story but will help to inform the decisions that they make. Here are a few areas to consider when crafting an interesting backstory:

  • Childhood and family dynamics
  • Traumatic or impactful events
  • Educational background and achievements
  • Obstacles, challenges, or setbacks
  • Secrets, hidden aspects, or unresolved issues
  • Relationships with friends, partners, or mentors
  • Goals, aspirations, and dreams
  • Hobbies, interests, or talents
  • Values, morals, and ethical code

Adding a backstory to a character profile

Add a note to describe their backstory.

4. Give them quirks, faults, and flaws

Your character should come from an authentic place. That means that the character probably has some contradictions that make them a little out of the ordinary. If a character is too simplistic, it can feel cliched. Character flaws such as overconfidence, impatience, or recklessness can add new dimensions to a hero and make them feel more relatable. Here are a few other examples to consider:

  • Obsessive-compulsive tendencies (arranging things symmetrically, fear of germs)
  • Chronic lateness or forgetfulness
  • Collects unusual items (rubber ducks, vintage keychains)
  • Impulsive decision-making without considering consequences
  • Has a habit of telling elaborate and overly complicated stories
  • Overly critical or judgmental of others
  • Quick to anger or easily provoked
  • Overly trusting or easily manipulated by others

Adding quirks and flaws to a character profile

Add a note to describe their quirks and flaws.

5. Give your character an arc

A believable character grows and changes as your story evolves. Just like real people, they adapt and respond to life's events.

Consider where your character starts out and how they change alongside developments in the story. How do they overcome their initial obstacles? For example, do they learn new skills, gain a fresh perspective or make new relationships that lead to their success?

A character arc

Add notes to describe the change in your character.

Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left hand toolbar.

6. Add visual references

Even if you're writing a novel, visual references and inspiration can help bring your character to life. There are lots of fantastic sites where you can find great visual inspiration for free, like Pinterest or Google Images . You can also create a character moodboard at this stage to help explore all aspects of their appearance. See our guide on creating moodboards for a novel to learn more.

Visual references in a character profile

Use the built-in image library.

Use the built-in image library

Search over 500,000 beautiful photos powered by Unsplash then drag images straight onto your board.

Add image files to your board.

Click the "Upload file" button or just drag a file onto your board. You can add images, logos, documents, videos, audio and much more.

7. Organise & refine

Once you have everything you need, it's time to organize your content into logical topics. There's no right or wrong way to do this. The goal is to make your character profile easy to scan and reference as you're writing the story.

Character profile for a novel

Use Columns to group related content

Drag a column onto your board

Name it, then drag any relevant notes or images into your column

8. Create the rest of your characters

It's important not to fall into the trap of giving just one character too much responsibility for the drama in your story. Work on additional characters that compliment and contrast the traits of your main character. You can repeat the above process to develop a whole cast of characters that help bring your novel to life. Creating a character relationship map can be a great way to visualize their relationships (good or bad).

Map of characters in a novel

Use the Character Relationship Map template

You're done!

Now that you've created a unique fictional character, you have a great reference to use while writing your story. Use the template below to start inventing your character or read our full guide on how to plan a novel .

brett warren

Create your character

Get started for free with Milanote's easy to use character profile template.

Sign up for free with no time limit

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Building & Revealing Characters

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

These resources discuss character creation and development in fiction writing. They provide an overview of character archetypes and tools to aid in character building.

By now, you’ve assembled a great deal of information about your characters. You can see them, you know what they’re thinking, and you know what they want. But conveying this information to your reader is its own unique challenge.

Just as you can’t rely on mere exposition to explain what happened before your story, you can’t preface your story with an interview with your character. Character is something you build throughout the course of your story. Recall that major characters, like your protagonist, are ones that will change during the course of the story; who they are in the beginning is not who they’ll be in the end.

That said, you’ll want to give the reader an impression of who the character is at the outset of the story. Fitzgerald uses the first-person narrator, Nick Carraway, to gradually reveal information about Gatsby; the reader learns more information about Gatsby as Nick learns about him. You might use minor characters to reveal information about your character if you’re writing from a point-of-view that is not the protagonist.

The protagonist must also be likeable (at least to an extent). If your reader cannot identify with your character, cannot picture themselves in the character’s shoes, then they won’t want to read on. While fiction is plot-driven, the reader isn’t going to care about your plot unless they care about your protagonist. You have to make the reader root for your character; we have to want them to succeed (as with Gatsby).

This doesn’t mean that your character should be perfect—quite the opposite, actually. We don’t want to read about perfect people; if a character is the most beautiful and talented person in the world, and if she has everything they want, there’s no story there. Besides, nobody wants to read about a character who’s perfect.

You may recall that every character in William Shakespeare’s plays has a “fatal flaw”: a personality flaw that will cause the character to fail, that Achilles’ heel that the antagonist will exploit. When you are building your own characters, think about what sort of flaws they have. The flaw should make sense for the character, as in, it should be related to their background/beliefs. You can’t assign flaws arbitrarily—the flaw should arise from the circumstances of your character’s life, where they are, who they know, how they were raised and how they’ve been treated.

  • Character Flaws
  • Character Profiles
  • Character Traits
  • Fiction Writing

One of the most important elements in a novel or short story is characterization: making the characters seem vivid, real, alive. One technique that many writers use with success is to create a character profile for the main characters in the novel. The purpose of a character profile is twofold: to assist the writer in creating a character that is as lifelike as possible and to help with continuity issues in the story.

In our author interviews many bestselling authors have stated that they came up with the basics of a character's personality and then they found that the character just "came alive" for them and ended up driving the story all on his own. These are writers with years of experience developing characters and it now comes more naturally to them. But for the beginning writer, sometimes a more concrete approach is helpful.

That is where the character profile comes in -- it is simply a tool for organizing your thoughts about a certain character and keeping track of a particular character's idiosyncrasies and relationships. It can help flesh out a cardboard character and even make you think about facets of his or her personality that you had not considered before. Character profiles are especially helpful for novels which involve several main characters and for stories which use multiple points of view.

Character profiles are useful when writing in any genre. Depending on the genre in which you write, you will create additional sections on the Character Profile Worksheet. For example, fantasy writers can use the character profiles to keep track of factors such as magical abilities, family lineage, spells the character is under, and limitations on the character's power to ensure continuity in the action.

For literary and mainstream novels, profiles are especially useful for keeping in mind motivations of the character -- hurts and disappointments in the past which may not be alluded to directly in the dialogue, but which nevertheless color everything the character thinks and feels. For example, someone who was abused as a child will most likely react differently in certain situations than someone who had a happy, loving childhood.

A Character Profile is also of great help during the rewrite stage of your novel. You can use the profile to ensure continuity in the character's actions. For example, if in draft 1 your heroine is just recovering from a nasty divorce and in draft 2 you've decided to make her a happily married mother of three, you will know to check every scene with dialogue about her marital status as well as scenes where the (now non-existent) dastardly ex-husband is mentioned.

If you change an attribute of your character, be sure to update your Character Profile Worksheet right away. Obviously, a character can develop over the course of the novel. The Worksheet provides a place for you to note that fact so that when you read over your final draft you can see if you achieved your particular character development goal for that character.

A Character Profile is just meant to be a guide where you can list facts and details to help you get to know your characters, especially if you get stuck on one character who doesn't quite seem real. You also want to be sure you don't create a Mary Sue character. Maybe he needs a new characteristic -- a hidden trauma, a fabulous skill or a deadly secret -- something that will make the character come alive for you. If you are having trouble coming up with character details try to see how your character performs using a writing prompt or walk them through a situation known well to you.

How detailed you want your character worksheets to be just depends on what works best for you. So, next time you're stuck on characterization, pull out the Character Profile Worksheet and get to know someone new.

You can find out more about character building in our characters section . Some useful books about characterization include Writer's Guide to Character Traits and Characters & Viewpoint .

This article has been expanded on from the original published in the June 1998 issue of The Internet Writing Journal .

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Creative Writing: Character Building and Story Development (Age 10-14)


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9 Minecraft Language Arts Activities for Kids

Do video games and language arts go together? They do when you try these Minecraft language arts activities!

Using Minecraft for Language Arts

Minecraft is a video game where players navigate a virtual world.

You can travel the world through Minecraft (it has every major biome).

You can build your own homes, cities, and landmarks.

The players can interact with one another.

You can develop your own character and make up backstories for the non-playing characters (NPCs) you meet.

Try some of these Minecraft language arts activities to get your students writing!

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9 Minecraft Language Arts Activities

Many of these Minecraft language arts activities work well as writing prompts.

Creative Writing Challenges

Prompt students to create stories inspired by in-game scenes.

Navigate the various biomes to create imaginative settings.

Build specific places within Minecraft to house the action of the story. Consider making a sunken ship, a castle, a farm, or an underground fortress.

Poetry Composition

Minecraft is an excellent prompt for stories but can also prompt poems.

Write a story poem about the action in your Minecraft world. (This can be as basic as “The Three Little Kittens” or as complicated as a scene from The Odyssey !)

You can also write a poem based on a theme within the game: survival, exploration, creativity, beauty of nature, etc.

The poems don’t have to rhyme. Here is an example:

The intrepid explorer persists

Beneath the blocks of dirt.

What treasures lie below?

Tiny rivers of copper,

Fistfulls of diamonds,

And the rarest of rare-

Glittering, green emeralds

Character Development Exercises

Create your own character. Go beyond just choosing your skin.

Think about who your character is. What is their name? Where are they from? Why are they in this place?

What do they want or need? What obstacles do they encounter? How will they overcome those obstacles?

Journaling in Minecraft Worlds

Keep a digital journal of adventures, thoughts, and reflections as you play the game.

You can use a simple word processing program to journal free-form.

Or you can respond to prompts for the day.

For example, “What are three adjectives that describe your location? Use them in a sentence.”

Here are some other ideas:

“What problem is your character experiencing?” or “What is your character doing?”

“Consider what your character might feel as they navigate this situation.”

“What might they say to other characters in the game?”

Descriptive Writing Practice

Minecraft has a variety of biomes and settings. You can find even more using Minecraft Education ( like this one set in Florence ).

Describe in-game landscapes, structures, and environments using vivid language.

Prompt students to use language that evokes the five senses.

What does the place look like? What sounds do you hear? Is it the city or the country?

What aromas do you smell?

Look around. What textures do you notice?

Narrative Building

Because your player can interact with their environment, other players, and NPCs (non-playing characters), you can construct a plot line.

Outline a sequential story from your gameplay and turn it into a story.

Dialogue Creation

Writing dialogues between characters or NPCs encountered in Minecraft.

You can write this as traditional dialogue (using quotation marks), or you can write it in play format.

You can even write a play for others to perform in Minecraft!

Letter Writing Campaigns

Practice friendly letter writing and pen letters from your player to others.

(This is not in-game messaging but actual letter writing.)

You can write to in-game characters (only those you know and trust in real life) or pen pals who also play the game.

Minecraft Storytelling Podcasts

Practice the skill of composition without writing something down!

Record audio narratives of in-game experiences to practice telling a story in sequence, using descriptive language, and crafting dialogue.

Try using the perspective of your player. For example, “I am walking through the orchard of cherry trees when I spot…”

Minecraft Language Arts Activities

Minecraft provides the necessary spark of creativity that will get your kids writing.

Use Minecraft to develop language arts skills with these nine language arts activities.

You May Also Like:

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  • 50+ Things You Should Do When Homeschooling
  • Minecraft: Education Edition

The post 9 Minecraft Language Arts Activities for Kids appeared first on Mama Teaches .

Write descriptions, dialogue, plot lines, plays, and poems using Minecraft as your prompt. Try these Minecraft language arts activities!

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39 famous buildings you should visit before you die

A virtual tour of the world's most famous buildings to inspire creative ideas (and travel plans).

An image of one of the world's most famous buildings, the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

The world's most famous buildings can be great places to find creative inspiration. From historic marvels like the Forbidden City in Beijing to modern landmarks such as the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the world is full of iconic structures that can provide ideas for all manner of design projects.

The year 2024 will see the completion of several major new architectural landmarks which are sure to join the ranks of the most famous buildings, and in the list below, we've included some of these newcomers too. Visiting or just studying these buildings, we can learn about a country's culture, history and design. If you're drawing up a travel wish list, you might also want one of the best cameras or to take on some sketching tips to capture what you see.

39 incredible famous buildings for creative inspiration

01. the jeddah tower.

A 3D render of the Jeddah Tower, one of the world's most famous buildings

So you can't actually visit the Jeddah Tower yet because it's not complete, but this guide is titled famous buildings to see before you die, so we'll start with a long-term suggestion. The Jeddah Tower is almost guaranteed to become one of the world's most famous buildings when it's completed if only for the fact that it will become the tallest (until the next one).

The tower in Saudi Arabia will be the world's first to reach over a kilometre in height, overshadowing the UAE’s Burj Khalifa by 172 metres. It's intended to be the centerpiece of the Jeddah Economic City (JEC) development. Chicago's Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture is the lead architect, and the design was inspired by the concept of the "folded fronds of young desert plant growth".

Work resumed in September after being held up due to the Covid-19 pandemic but there is still no scheduled date for completion. The tower will house a Four Season hotel, apartments, offices condominiums and the world’s highest observatory.

02. RAIM (Robot & Artificial Intelligence Museum), Seoul

A 3D render of the construction of RAIM, one of the most famous buildings

Opening in 2024, the Robot & AI Museum (RAIM) in Seoul is set to be very much a museum of its age, focusing on two rapidly evolving areas of technology that are expected to shape the near future. Designed by Melike Altinisik Architects , the building itself has a striking design, looking like a giant egg. What's inside the museum when it opens in the second half of the year is likely to be just as intriguing, but the museum's construction has been an exhibition in itself, with robots assembling the external metal panels and 3D printing concrete components.

03. Beijing Daxing International Airport

Famous buildings: Beijing

A relatively new construction, Beijing's second international airport replaced Istanbul as the world's largest when it was completed in 2019. Known as 'the starfish', it's sprawling star shape spans 7.5 million square feet. Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects before Hadid's death, it not only looks incredible, but it's uber-practical as well, with an innovative layout designed to make things easier for travellers. This is building design that's both functional and stunning to behold.

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04. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Designed by Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum was completed in 1997. It's a mass of smooth curved lines and glittering tiles. The museum is crossed at one end by a bridge, which is crowned by a large skylight in the shape of a metal flower. The design is so complex that Gehry used advanced software originally conceived for the aerospace industry to work on the design. You can learn more about the building's architecture here .

05. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

The Sagrada is often cited as the oldest construction project that's still ongoing. Work started on Antoni Gaudí's basilica in 1882, over 130 years later it's still unfinished. It was most recently slated for completion for 2026, although that looks set to be pushed back again. When it's finally completed, the construction will have lasted only a few decades less than the Great Wall of China. Even in its unfinished state, it's a joy to behold thanks to its extravagant mix of architectural styles, almost liquid-like spires, ornate facades, ornamental arches and vivid stained glass.

06. Notre Dame, Paris

Side shot of Notre Dame

The Notre Dame de Paris has long been one of the world's most celebrated cathedrals, and it's been even more in the spotlight since it was devastated by fire in April 2019. The interior won't be finished in 2024, but the cathedral's facade is expected to be finished in time for The Paris Olympics in July.

Construction on the original structure began in 1160, and the building has since had a peppered history of destruction and reconstruction. The French president Emmanuel Macron has said that the spire will be reconstructed exactly as it was, with up to 1,000 oak trees needed to make that happen.

07. Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku

Famous buildings: Heydar Aliyev Center

The Heydar Aliyev Center is one of the most famous buildings designed by the celebrated Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. Located in Baku, Azerbaijan, it was completed in 2012 and was acclaimed for its distinctive flowing lines and lack of sharp angles. Zaha Hadid Architects was awarded the commission following a competition in 2007. On the firm's website , it explains the motivation behind the design: "The Center... breaks from the rigid and often monumental Soviet architecture that is so prevalent in Baku, aspiring instead to express the... optimism of a nation that looks to the future." 

08. Cathedral of Brasilia, Brasilia

This curved beauty in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, is just as striking inside as outside with its beautiful crown-like structure and stained glass. It was created between 1958-1970 by Brazil's famed Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa. Interestingly considering the religious context, both architects were actually communists. Their work rejects the trend for cube-like design that was favoured by their peers and celebrates the majesty of the curve.

09. Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

Famous buildings: Harpa Concert Hall

Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik was designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Elíasson alongside Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið Architects . The kaleidoscope effect of the crystalline shell deploys light and colour in a way that plays with your senses when you enter the building. It looks like a shimmering sculpture that sits on the shoreline connecting the sky and the sea. 

10. Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin

The Milwaukee Art Museum is an architectural landmark that comprises three separate buildings. The War Memorial Center (1957) was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen; the Kahler Building (1975) by David Kahler; and the Quadracci Pavilion (2001) by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The latter is an iconic sculptural edition typical of Calatrava's work with flying buttresses, pointed arches and ribbed vaults. Overlooking Lake Michigan, it’s directly connected to Wisconsin Avenue by a cable-stay footbridge. Pedestrians can cross Lincoln Memorial Drive on the bridge and continue into the pavilion, while drivers enter via an underground vaulted parking garage.

11. Forbidden City, Beijing

Famous buildings: The Forbidden City in Beijing

This is more of a series of famous buildings than one – 980, to be precise. Constructed between 1406AD to 1420AD, the Forbidden City was home to emperors from the time of the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty, making it the political centre of China for half a millennium. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the former imperial palace now houses the Palace Museum. It has the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world and sees an average of 16 million visitors in a typical year – that's 40,000 visitors per day.

12. The Dancing House, Prague

Famous buildings: The Dancing House in Prague

Dubbed The Dancing House, Prague’s Nationale-Nederlanden building was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry.  The deconstructivist, or new-baroque, architecture forms the unusual dancing shape thanks to 99 concrete panels, each a different shape and dimension. The building's proved so popular that it now features on a gold 2,000 Czech koruna coin issued by the Czech National Bank.

13. Great Mosque of Djenné, Djenné

Famous buildings: The Great Mosque of Djenné

The Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali is one of the most famous buildings in Africa, and it's so important in Mali that it features on the country's coat of arms. It's made of earth bricks that have been dried in the sun, mortar made of sand and a plaster that creates a smooth surface. 

It is thought that a mosque has existed on the site since the 1200s. The current structure was rebuilt in 1907, and there's been some debate over whether or not the structure was influenced by French architecture (Mali became independent from France in 1906). Once a year, the people of Djenné have a festival and work together to complete any necessary repairs.

14. Lotus Temple, New Dehli

Famous buildings: Lotus Temple

The Lotus Temple is a Bahá'í House of Worship in New Delhi. It comprises 27 structures resembling lotus petals, which open onto a central hall that's around 40m high. The surface of the structure is made of white marble from Mount Pentelicus in Greece, the same marble used to build the Parthenon. The building has nine sides, nine doors, and can accommodate 2,500 people. Since its completion in 1986, it's become one of the most visited buildings in the world, attracting over 100 million people. 

15. Himeji Castle, Himeji

Famous buildings: Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is a spectacular Japanese castle near Kyoto. It's over 400 years old and in pristine conditions having escaped damage by war or natural disasters. The whole complex is made up of over 80 buildings, which are connected together by gates and winding paths. A marvel to behold, it's often dubbed the White Egret or White Heron Castle because of its white elegant exterior, which is said to resemble a bird taking flight.

16. Cologne Cathedral, Cologne

Famous buildings: Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is a High Gothic five-aisled cathedral. Construction began in 1248 and went on until it was halted in 1473 before the building was complete. Work didn't resume until the 1800s, and the cathedral was finally finished in 1880. Later work follows the original medieval plan faithfully and the building is renowned as a Gothic masterpiece. It also houses many works of art as well as the Shrine of the Three Kings, which is traditionally believed to hold the remains of the biblical Three Kings.

17. Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Famous buildings: Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

A masterpiece of Islamic architecture, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was built by Caliph Abd al-Malik between 687 and 691. The octagonal plan and the wood rotunda dome are of Byzantine design. The Persian tiles on the exterior were added by Suleiman I in 1561, and the interior decoration was later added to with marble, mosaic and faience. The oldest extant Islamic monument, the Dome of the Rock has served as a model for architecture and other art for more than a millennium.

18. La Pedrera, Barcelona

Fanous buildings: La Pedrera in Barcelona

There are several unusual, beautiful buildings from the architect Antoni Gaudí nestled in the urban streets of Barcelona. His unique approach to the Art Nouveau movement generated some of the most creative buildings the world has seen, and La Pedrera is no exception. One of the most imaginative houses in the history of architecture, it's more of a sculpture than a building. The façade is a varied but harmonious mass of undulating stone that, along with its forged iron balconies, explores the irregularities of the natural world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted it World Heritage status in 1984.

19. St Paul's Cathedral, London

Famous buildings: St Paul's Cathedral in London

Designed by English architect Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul's Cathedral is one of London's most iconic buildings. Sitting at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, its famous dome is one of the world's largest, measuring nearly 112 metres high. 

The original church on the site was founded in 604AD, and work on the present English Baroque church began in the 17th Century as part of a major rebuilding programme after the Great Fire of London. Wren started working on his designs in 1666 and took nine years to complete them. The actual construction took a further 35 years. St Paul's has played an integral part of London life ever since, as a dominant part of the skyline and a centre for tourism, religious worship and anticapitalist protests. See our designer's guide to London for more highlights of the UK capital.

20. Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Famous buildings: The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

Standing at 451.9 metres tall, these linked twin skyscrapers are an iconic landmark in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Petronas Towers held the title of tallest building in the world between 1998-2004. The distinctive postmodern style was created by architects Cesar Pelli and Achmad Murdijat, engineer Deejay Cerico and designer Dominic Saibo under the consultancy of JC Guinto. The design of each floor plate was based on the simple Islamic geometric forms of two interlocking squares, creating the shape of an eight-pointed star.

21. The White House, Washington

Famous buildings: The White House in Washington

The White House, perhaps the world's most famous political residence, was designed by Irish architect James Hoban. He submitted a plan for the presidential mansion in 1792 and subsequently won the commission to build the White House. Construction began in 1793 and was completed in 1801. The mansion, which has been home to every US leader since the country's second president John Adams, is made from white-painted Aquia sandstone.

22. Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa

Famous buildings: The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most remarkable architectural structures in Europe, best known for its accidental tilt. The tower began to lean during construction because soft ground on one side was unable to properly support the structure's weight. Building work began in 1173 and went on for a staggering 199 years. There's been much controversy as to the true identity of the architect behind it. The design was originally attributed to the artist Bonnano Pisano, but studies have also implicated architect Diotisalvi.

23. The Kaaba, Mecca

Famous buildings: The Kabba in Mecca

The Kaaba, meaning cube in Arabic, is a square building located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. An important sacred site in Islam, the Kabba is elegantly draped in a silk and cotton veil. Every year millions of Muslims travel to visit it for the hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The small square building is about 45 feet high and its walls are a metre wide, with its total size occupying roughly 627 square feet.

24. The Shard, London

Famous buildings: The Shard in London

Also referred to as the shard of glass, The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and the second tallest free-standing structure in the UK behind the Arqiva radio and television tower in West Yorkshire. The 95-storey skyscraper was designed by architect Renzo Piano. It's exterior boasts 11,000 glass panels – equivalent in area to eight Wembley football pitches or two-and-a-half Trafalgar Squares.

The building was developed to have multiple uses, being described on the website as a 'vertical city where people can live, work and relax', a motto that was taken on board by a fox, nicknamed Romeo, that was found on the 72nd floor towards the end of construction. Work began in 2009 and finished in 2012.

25. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Nariño

Famous buildings: Las lajas sanctuary in Colombia

This dramatically situated church in Southern Colombia crosses a canyon. If that isn't impressive, we don't know what is. Why here? Because it's the site where a woman and her daughter reportedly saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1754, after which the previously deaf and mute daughter was able to speak. Since then, various shrines have been built. The current gothic-looking construction was created between 1916-1949.

26. St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

Famous buildings: St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow

No, not Disneyland. This extravagant candy-coloured cathedral is Moscow's most famous building, and most visited tourist attraction. Shaped to resemble the flame of a bonfire rising into the sky, St Basil's Cathedral is located just outside the Kremlin gates, marking the centre of Moscow. Built between 1555 and 1561, it was erected during the reign of Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible). Little is known about the building's architect Postnik Yakovlev, but he was clearly a fan of onion domes, sharp spikes and polygonal towers.

27. Empire State Building, New York

Famous buildings: The Empire State Building in New York

We couldn't put together a list of world-famous buildings without including this grand Art Deco skyscraper. Once the tallest building in the world, the Empire State was built in just 410 days, with work starting on St Patrick's Day 1930. The building was designed by William F Lamb of architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon. It was declared by the American Society of Civil Engineers to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and is known as an icon of New York City.

28. Lloyd's Building, London

Famous buildings: Lloyds Building in London

The award-winning Lloyd's building (also known as the Inside-Out building) looks like it belongs in a sci-fi movie rather than London's Lime Street. The futuristic architectural landmark is one of the most recognisable constructions on the London skyline. Architects Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners were behind the innovative design, which put utilitarian elements like water pipes and staircases on the outside. Built between 1978 and 1986, the building also features 12 exterior lifts, which were the first of their kind in the UK.

29. The Colosseum, Rome

Famous buildings: The Colosseum in Rome

This elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the Italian capital is considered one of the greatest architectural feats of Ancient Rome. The stadium could seat at least 50,000 spectators, mainly for gladiatorial games. Built mainly using concrete and stone between around 72AD and 80AD, the design and shape of the Colosseum has inspired many modern-day stadiums. Today it is one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions, attracting thousands of visitors each year. 

30. Taj Mahal, Agra

Famous buildings: Taj Mahal in Agra

Recognised as 'the jewel of Muslim art in India', the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Often mistaken as a palace, this famous landmark was actually built as a tomb for the emperor's wife after she died giving birth to their 14th child. It's regarded as one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture – an amalgamation of Persian, Turkish and Indian styles. Construction began in 1632 and was completed in 1643. The surrounding buildings and gardens took around five more years to finish.

31. Chrysler Building, New York

Famous buildings: Chrysler Building in New York City

In the early part of the 20th Century, there was a race to build the tallest building. At the time, this gorgeous Art Deco skyscraper was almost outdone by the Bank of Manhattan, but its spire (which was constructed in secret) enabled it to take the title of 'tallest building in the world' in 1930. That didn't last long though. Less than a year later, the Empire State Building stole its crown. Designed by architect William Van Alen, the skyscraper was commissioned by car manufacturer Walter P Chrysler, hence its name.

32. Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Famous buildings: Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is widely regarded as one of the greatest architectural works of the 20th century. The innovative design came from architect Jørn Utzon, who was relatively unknown until January 29, 1957 when his entry won the international competition to design a national opera house at Bennelong Point, Sydney. The beautiful building comprises three groups of interlocking shells, which cover two main performance halls and a restaurant. A masterpiece of modern architecture, the opera house has become an iconic symbol of both Sydney and Australia as a whole.

33. Space Needle, Seattle

Famous buildings: Space Needle in Seattle

A collaborative effort between architects Edward E Carlson and John Graham, the futuristic Space Needle in Seattle, Washington was built for the 1962 World's fair. The famous landmark stands at 184m high and 42m wide at its widest point. Not only is the architecture a marvel to look at but it's a feat of engineering too, built to survive wind speeds of 200mph and earthquakes of up to 9.1 in magnitude.

34. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Famous buildings: Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Once a church, later a mosque and now a museum, Hagia Sophia is a perfect example of Byzantine architecture. Located in Istanbul, Turkey, the building was originally constructed between 532AD and 537AD. It's been rebuilt many times since then, due to a range of factors, including earthquakes and being burned down in riots. Despite this, Hagia Sophia is widely recognised as one of the most impressive buildings in the world. It also featured in the opening scenes of the James Bond film, Skyfall.

35. Buckingham Palace, London

Famous buildings: Buckingham Palace in London

Originally known as Buckingham House, the royal palace was bought by George III in 1735 when the mansion was little more than a red brick house. Since then, various architects have worked on the building to make it what it is today, including John Nash and Edmund Blore. The exterior in Bath stone was designed in a Neo-classical French style. The East face of the palace was refaced in Portland stone in 1913. The palace had to undergo extensive work after being bombed no less than nine times during World War II. Despite that, it's still a working royal residence.

36. Fallingwater, Pennsylvania

Famous buildings: Fallingwater in Mill Run

Designed by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1934, Fallingwater is possibly the most famous private residence in the world. Why? Well, the unique design makes it look like the house stretches out over a 30ft waterfall, with no solid ground beneath it. This obviously isn't the case, but the innovative design captured the world's attention when it was completed in 1939. It became famous instantly and is now a historic landmark. It's so cool that you can even get a Lego version .

37. Pantheon, Rome

Famous buildings: Pantheon in Rome

Rome is home to many incredible famous buildings, and the Pantheon is no exception. Like the city itself, it wasn't built in a day. Destroyed then rebuilt twice, the building began as a rectangular structure before evolving into the gorgeous domed building seen today. An inspiration to architects all over the world, the Pantheon's roof remains the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. There is much debate between historians over which emperor and architects were responsible for the design, but we know that the 'Temple of the Gods' was first built in around 126AD.

38. Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

Chengdu is most famous for pandas, but Zaha Hadid's Chengdu Science Fiction Museum firmly puts the huge Chinese city on the architectural map too. It's described as a “star cloud dispersing energy fields”, and seems to hover over Jingrong Lake like a spaceship. Hadid's signature curves are present, along with environmental credentials such as natural ventilation and solar power.

39. Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Famous buildings: Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Last on our list – but by no means the least – is the world's tallest building (at least until the Jeddah Tower is completed). The Burj Khalifa, the centrepiece of downtown Dubai, stands at an incredible 828.9 metres high. Construction on the 160-floor building began in 2004, and its doors opened six years later in 2010. It was designed by the Chicago office of American architectural and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings and Merril LLP. A Y-shaped tripartite floor was used to optimise residential and hotel space, while a buttressed central core and wings support the stunning height of the building.

For more inspiration, see our pick of the best online art galleries to visit from home.

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Georgia Coggan

Georgia is lucky enough to be Creative Bloq's Editor. She has been working for Creative Bloq since 2018, starting out as a freelancer writing about all things branding, design, art, tech and creativity – as well as sniffing out genuinely good deals on creative technology. Since becoming Editor, she has been managing the site on a day-to-day basis, helping to shape the diverse content streams CB is known for and leading the team in their own creativity. 

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✍️ Character Development Writing Exercises

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We found 46 character development exercises that match your search 🔦 reset

  • Why are you grumpy? I have a hangover.
  • Why do you have a hangover? My friend was in a bad accident and I thought he might die?
  • Why did you think he might die? His girlfriend lied to me about how serious the accident was.
  • Why did she lie about that? She's jealous of our relationship.
  • Why? I think she's insecure and has trust issues.

Character Development

The ellen degeneres show.

A talk show is scripted to promote the guest and discuss topics with which the guest is comfortable. Imagine your protagonist on the Ellen Degeneres Show (or The Late Show With Stephen Colbert - whichever show you're familiar with). What questions would be asked of your protagonist? What funny anecdotes would your protagonist share? Write down the reactions of both your protagonist and the host.

Your character's story has been Disney-fied. At what point in the arc does your protagonist break out into song - and what is that song about?

creative writing character building


Your story matters. Unlock your potential with daily video lessons from bestselling ghostwriter Tom Bromley, and finish your first draft in just 3 months. Learn more →

Your protagonist has just made it into a New York Times headline. What does the headline say? Write down the reaction of your protagonist to hearing the news that day.

The Sorting

Your protagonist's name is called. They approach the stool, where an old and tattered hat lies. They put on the hat. They will next hear one of four words called out: Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff. Which one is it? Write down the reasons detailing why.

Your protagonist has just been bequeathed $5 million dollars. The money came from an anonymous benefactor who wants your protagonist to donate all of it to five charities. How does your protagonist react? In a short story, write down what would happen next.

The Funny Drive Prompt

"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind, but not in one ahead" _ Bill McGlashen. Your protagonist is one or the other. Pick one, and roll with it. Go!

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