Read Time: 5 minutes
Imagine captivating your audience with a cast of characters that feel alive.
As a creative writer, you possess the ability to transform words on a page into believable personalities that keep audiences hooked.
And inside this week’s issue of TSS, we’ll dig into the art of crafting a rich and diverse ensemble of characters for your stories, ensuring they resonate all around.
Also, we’ll use ChatGPT prompts as a catalyst for sparking your creativity and developing characters that not only stand out, but leave a lasting impression.
Understanding Common Character Roles
Characters in a story have different jobs, or “roles.”
Knowing these roles can help you create inspiring characters that work well together.
Here are seven common character roles along with examples from seven popular films and novels.
This is the main character of the story. They are the hero or the person we follow through their adventure.
- Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) = Luke Skywalker
- Harry Potter series = Harry Potter
- The Wizard of Oz = Dorothy
- The Hunger Games (Book 1) = Katniss Everdeen
- The Lord of the Rings series = Frodo Baggins
- The Matrix = Neo / Thomas A. Anderson
This character is usually the “bad guy” or the person who causes problems for the protagonist.
- Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) = Darth Vader
- Harry Potter series = Lord Voldemort
- The Wizard of Oz = The Wicked Witch of the West
- The Hunger Games (Book 1) = President Snow
- The Lord of the Rings series = Sauron
- The Matrix = Agent Smith
3. Mentor / Guide:
This character helps the protagonist by teaching them important lessons or giving them advice.
- Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) = Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Harry Potter series = Albus Dumbledore
- The Wizard of Oz = Glinda, the Good Witch of the North
- The Hunger Games (Book 1) = Haymitch Abernathy
- The Lord of the Rings series = Gandalf
- The Matrix = Morpheus
4. Sidekick / Best Friend:
This character is a loyal friend to the protagonist. They often help and support the main character.
- Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) = Han Solo
- Harry Potter series = Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger
- The Wizard of Oz = Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion
- The Hunger Games (Book 1) = Peeta Mellark (limited role, also Love Interest)
- The Lord of the Rings series = Samwise Gamgee
- The Matrix = Trinity
5. Love Interest:
This character is someone the protagonist cares about in a romantic way.
- Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) = Princess Leia
- Harry Potter series = Ginny Weasley
- The Wizard of Oz = N/A
- The Hunger Games (Book 1) = Peeta Mellark (also sidekick)
- The Lord of the Rings series = N/A
- The Matrix = Trinity
A foil is a character who is very different from the protagonist. They show the reader or audience what the protagonist is not.
- Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) = Han Solo (initially)
- Harry Potter series = Draco Malfoy
- The Wizard of Oz = The Wicked Witch of the East
- The Hunger Games (Book 1) = Effie Trinket
- The Lord of the Rings series = Boromir
- The Matrix = Cypher
7. Comic / Relief:
This character adds humor and fun to the story. They can make us laugh even during serious moments.
- Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) = C-3PO and R2-D2
- Harry Potter series = Fred and George Weasley
- The Wizard of Oz = Cowardly Lion (partially)
- The Hunger Games (Book 1) = N/A
- The Lord of the Rings series = Merry and Pippin
- The Matrix = Mouse (limited role)
Now that we know about some of the common character roles, let’s explore a few ChatGPT prompts to create your own exciting characters.
ChatGPT Prompts to Jumpstart Your Characters
ChatGPT can be a powerful AI tool to help you come up with new ideas for your characters.
Here’s a starter prompt you can use to start building your ensemble around an existing story idea. Keep in mind that only the first two placeholders in brackets (genre and story summary) need to be updated.
Note: For each character role, you can either insert information from your story or leave the placeholder as is.
// Prompt below – edit the bold text in brackets //
“For a [insert genre] story about [insert story summary or premise], develop a diverse and applicable ensemble of characters using the format below. For any character that already has information completed, please enhance their character with more details, and describe each character’s role, personality traits, and how they contribute to the overall narrative. Add or remove any characters as needed.
1/ Protagonist: [insert character backstory with flaws, traits, and a story goal for the overarching narrative, highlighting their growth and transformation]
2/ Antagonist: [insert character backstory with motivations, traits, and a story goal that directly causes opposition to the protagonist’s story goal, exploring their complexity and depth]
3/ Mentor/Guide: [insert character backstory, their relationship with the protagonist, and the guidance they provide through their own experiences and wisdom]
4/ Sidekick: [insert character backstory, their dynamic with the protagonist, and how their loyalty and resourcefulness contribute to the story]
5/ Love Interest: [insert character backstory, their connection with the protagonist, and how their evolving relationship impacts the narrative]
6/ Foil: [insert character backstory, key contrasting traits with the protagonist, and how their interactions emphasize the protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses]
7/ Comic Relief: [insert character backstory, their unique sense of humor, and how they bring levity to tense situations without detracting from the story’s main themes]”
// Prompt above – edit the bold text in brackets //
Mixing and Matching Character Roles
Sometimes, characters embody a blend of different roles.
Combining roles can make your characters more unique and engaging. Here are some ideas for mixing and matching character roles:
- A mentor who also serves as a comic relief character. This character imparts essential lessons while making the story more enjoyable with their humor. e.g. Yoda in Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) and Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games (Book 1)
- A sidekick who doubles as a foil to the protagonist. This character supports the protagonist while also highlighting the differences between the two characters. e.g. Ron Weasley to Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series and Dr. John Watson to Sherlock Holmes in the Sherlock Holmes stories
- A love interest who is also a protagonist in their own right. This character has their own goals and desires, making their relationship with the main protagonist more engaging. e.g. Allie Hamilton and Noah Calhoun in The Notebook and Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean series
- A comic relief character who also serves as a sidekick. This character supports the protagonist while using humor to bring levity to the story. e.g. Olaf in Frozen and Dory in Finding Nemo
By mixing and matching character roles, you can build multi-dimensional personas that will make your characters even more unique.
Additional Tips for Developing a Well-Rounded Cast of Characters
Creating a group of interesting characters can make your story more fun to read.
Here are some final tips to help you develop a well-rounded cast of characters:
1/ Make each character different:
- Give each character their own personality and way of speaking. This will make it easier for readers to tell them apart and enjoy their unique qualities.
2/ Give characters their own goals:
- Every character should have something they want or need. This will help readers understand why the characters do what they do and make them more relatable.
3/ Think about character relationships:
- How do your characters get along with one another? Characters can have friendships, rivalries, or other connections that make the story more exciting.
4/ Don’t overcrowd your story:
- Make sure you have just the right number of characters. Too many characters can make the story confusing, and important characters might not get enough attention.
Final Thoughts on Character Development
Creating a cast of characters is a key part of crafting a gripping plot.
By understanding common character roles, using ChatGPT prompts, and following these tips, you can create a group of interesting and inspiring characters that audiences will love.
Remember to have fun and experiment with different ideas to make your characters and your story truly special.