Creating memorable fictional characters

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Fictional characters must possess sufficient strength of character to handle difficult dilemmas. In other words, they must be up to the demands of the plot. John Harman will show you how to create convincing characters, even those of the opposite gender.

A story may be structured like a journey with a:

  • Compass – the premise, theme, threads
  • Map – the plot
  • Engine – the motivation of the protagonist (plus other central characters)
  • Fuel – the dialogue

The depth, dimensionality and authenticity of the story’s characters are vital. Many new writers are too soft on their characters. If the story is a quest – a hard, dangerous journey (either physical or emotional) from point a to point b in which the protagonist has an extremely strenuous time – the writer needs to create characters who can take all the physical, emotional and mental punishment the story hands out.


  • What comes first: plot or character? Does it matter?
  • E.M. Forster’s view of ‘round’ and ‘flat’ characters.
  • The basic raw material of character: physiology, sociology and psychology
  • Ego – Emotions – Mind – Personal situation – Environment
  • Character is forged in conflict. Is your character up to it? Is the conflict up to the character?
  • A protagonist must have difficult decisions. The character’s motivation is all important. What does this person want? Wilful desire – Unconscious desire – Desire pursued right to the end of the line
  • Character growth through the story
  • Creating the world of the protagonist. Back story or Exposition.
  • Creating the antagonist. Polar relationships. Maximising the opportunity for conflict
  • Secondary characters: how to make them memorable without being ciphers
  • Sex swap. Writing characters of the opposite sex; how to do it and make them believable
  • Multi-protagonists. These must have a relationship – be tightly bound together – have a common cause
  • Exercises in character creation and assassination.


Students will benefit from watching the film ‘Thelma and Louise’ prior to attending this course.

This course will be held at The University Club of Western Australia.

Lunch will be provided and is included in the cost.

If you have any special dietary requirements please email our staff on as soon as possible once you have booked. Your early notice is appreciated and assists us in meeting your dietary requirements.

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