Creating Characters: Read the Paper

Ever find yourself stuck for character ideas? Or do your characters somehow seem not believable enough, too vague? A good way to develop your character is to have a picture to look at. You’ll find your creativity sparked and ideas flow when you look into the face of someone.

Try this exercise. Grab a newspaper, and rip out some pictures of different people from stories. Try not to look at the headlines or you’ll find you write about that, rather than let your imagination guide you based on the visual alone. Take a picture that stands out to you, and begin to write about him or her. How old is the character? Where are they from? What does he or she like, dislike, what do they do for fun? What is the current predicament they find themselves in?

If you feel comfortable to, post some of your character creations from the newspaper experiment to share with other readers. Here are a few of mine, enjoy!


Note what we have learned here. The main character’s grandparents are dead. Their cause of death and final hours of torture are the result of the main character’s secret; which is yet to be revealed. We’ve also discovered that the main character is very fond of his or her grandparents, and that they were mostly happy and probably normal people. Already we have an intriguing plot here with great potential for a mystery.


An illusionist named Fantastico who wooes his audience to meet him in the back alley at full moon. We’ve learned he is a strange illusionist; not having a general show or theatre and requesting an odd meeting place; that those he invites are probably known to him or the area, “the back alley” could refer to dozens of places, but Fantastico is sure that those he tells will not misunderstand the location. We also are caused to wonder the significance of the full moon for Fantastico; clearly this is no standard magician.



Lastly, we have Shady, who seems somewhat un-shady. A gangsta wannabe, he seems almost pathetic in his attempts to be threatening.

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