Lots of writers do character sketches and other exercises to get to know their characters before they start writing. If you’re still discovering your protagonist, consider trying these unique ways to create characters or become more familiar with them.
Do a Personality Quiz
The germ of many novels comes from a character. As a writer, you get the basic outlines of a protagonist. However, as you start to dig into the plot, it’s easy to hit roadblocks. Why is this person behaving in such a way? How do they react to adversity? Why? What about the secondary characters? If they’re bad actors, why? What is everyone’s motivation?
Sometimes personality quizzes can help answer those questions by pushing you to think about elements of character you wouldn’t have thought about on your own. For instance, does your bad guy believe in heaven? Why or why not? What was your love interest’s first kiss like? Maybe these questions play a role in the story and maybe they don’t. But either way, they’re definitely food for thought. At this point in the writing process, a little nourishment might be what you need.
Character personality quizzes are easy to find. Just Google it and select the one (or ones) you like best.
Handicap It with Myers-Briggs
When you’re forming characters, you need to know how they’ll react to a given situation. Maybe you don’t need the detail of what their favorite childhood memory or worst nightmare is, you just need to understand their reaction to the world. After all, that reaction will have consequences in your plot.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indication (MBTI) can be an easy shorthand for identifying your characters’ personality types. Think you’re unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs? Think again. It’s the sixteen personality types based on whether someone is an introvert (I) or extrovert (E), uses sensing (S) or intuition (N) to collect information, makes decisions using thinking (T) or feeling (F), and is judging (J) or perceptive (P). This is when people say they’re an EITJ or an ISFP (or another combination).
Some workplaces or other groups use Myers-Briggs to understand the strengths and challenges of people they’re working with. Certain types are great about deadlines and tasks but have a hard time with less detail-oriented work. Others thrive in a group setting while others work better on their own. Just as a boss might change work assignments to help people do their best, using this method with your characters will give you a better sense of how they’ll approach adversity. And you’re about to throw a lot of conflict their way, so it’s good to know.
Create an Avatar
Sometimes knowing what your character looks like, down to their toenail polish or hairdo will help you see this person more clearly—including beyond their superficial traits. The type of woman to change her nail color to match her outfit is very different from one who never bothers. The type of man to get a Tweety Bird tattoo is not the same as one who has a woman’s portrait on his back. Checking Pinterest or Google images can help inspire you. Have fun with it!