Read Time: 3 minutes

Dynamic characters breathe life into every gripping narrative.

If they’re cardboard cutouts, your story is DOA.

Today we’re assembling seven vital pillars for character building. Then you’ll get a ChatGPT prompt to develop your story’s cast.

Let’s get into it.

1/ All Characters Make First Impressions

First impressions compel you to exaggerate traits for each character, helping audiences differentiate them.

Think about when you meet “characters” in real life. There’s often something you remember about them, right?

Your fictional characters must do the same and leave lasting impressions.

For instance, maybe your protagonist enters a diner, holds open the door for an elderly couple, struts to the counter and orders “the usual.”

2/ Every Character Brings Value

All characters influence each other and the audience.

Major or minor, every character deserves depth, even the waiter serving coffee to your protagonist.

They’re equally important to scenes because their presence creates opportunities to show their true nature.

For example, the waiter’s reaction to your protagonist’s joke can reveal charm or awkwardness, enhancing the narrative.

3/ All Characters Possess Goals and Stakes

Every character wants something.

And if they don’t get what they want, it affects them.

If the waiter aims for a good tip, but your protagonist’s order goes wrong, both end up dissatisfied.

4/ Characters Are Made Up of 100% Dramatic Moments

Leave out the mundane and ordinary, focusing only on your characters’ most extraordinary and exciting moments.

Your duty is to protect audiences from boredom.

For example, the waiter spilling coffee can turn a mundane action into a dramatic moment.

5/ Know Your Characters Inside Out

Scrutinize what they do, what they say, what they think and what others say about them.

Actions, words and thoughts speak volumes about a character’s true nature, giving your audience a deeper understanding.

Knowing whether your protagonist snaps at a waiter for spilled coffee or calmly asks for napkins offers a snapshot of their temperament, vital for crafting a believable character.

6/ All Characters Have Dark Truths

These are the secrets living inside your characters that they don’t want to see or share.

Exposing these external problems and inner demons makes your characters more memorable, impactful and entertaining.

For example, when an old song plays in the diner and the protagonist suddenly tenses up, it reveals an emotional scar, inviting the audience to question what lies beneath the surface.

7/ All Characters Experience Transformation

Every character starts one way and finishes another.

Real life is full of moment-to-moment shifts, and your characters should be no different.

This change will be much more pronounced for major characters, but even minor ones should experience change.

For instance, the waiter who starts off aloof might warm up to your protagonist after a kind exchange, undergoing a subtle transformation by the end of the scene.

Enhance Your Cast with ChatGPT

Now that you’ve assembled the seven pillars, it’s time to build on them with AI.

Use this prompt to develop your characters.

ChatGPT Prompt:

// edit bold text in [brackets] //

Imagine you are a world-class storyteller with expertise in creating magnetic characters that captivate audiences.

Using a genre of [Insert Genre Here]

and a central story idea of [Insert Story Idea or Summary Here],

And this character [Character Details including role (e.g. protagonist, antagonist), Scene, Goal, etc]

Let’s dissect this narrative’s character development.

Perform a detailed analysis, offering extremely critical feedback, for this character in the story using these seven vital aspects:

1/ First Impressions: How could this character make a more pronounced first impression without being overdramatic? Any ideas for something memorable that could help differentiate them?

2/ Value to the Story: What unique value does this character add to the story? Do they possess depth, and how do they enhance the narrative?

3/ Goals and Stakes: What appears to be this character’s goal? Is it coherent within the story’s context? What might be the fallout if they don’t achieve it?

4/ Dramatic Moments: Is this character involved in moments that could engage audiences? Is there something extraordinary about this character or sequence?

5/ Deep Understanding: How is this character’s thoughts, words, and actions conveyed to the audience?

6/ Dark Truths: What secrets or inner demons could the character be hiding? How could revealing these elements affect the story?

7/ Transformation: How could this character start and finish in the story? What meaningful changes could they undergo (without being overdramatic)?

Feel free to be as detailed as possible. Remember to keep your feedback directly tied to the genre, central story idea and character details. Your insights will not only deepen this character but can also significantly elevate the entire narrative.

That’s it for this Saturday.

If you’re finding value in TSS, please share it with a fellow storyteller.

See ya next week!

— Dave