Task #8: Complex Characters

Task #8: Complex Characters

The best characters are often ones that are multifaceted and complex. We love it when we empathise with the villain or when we can see flaws in our heroes because this mirrors the world around us. People are more complex than simply one characteristic.

Examples of this that I could think of are:

  • Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War / Endgame is interesting because whilst we’re rooting against him, we do understand why he’s doing the things that he does.
  • The titular character is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is portrayed as selfish but surprises us with moments that seem completely selfless. As the series progresses, we learn more about her background and the tragic events that she is recovering from.

The Task

You’re going to create an original character from qualities that you admire and dislike in others.


Take six post-it notes or tear-up a sheet of paper into six pieces, dividing them in to two piles of three. For the first pile, on each piece write a quality that you admire/like in people you know. Then on the remaining three, write a quality that you dislike in people you know. The more specific the better.


You should end up with two piles of three: one pile of positive qualities and one of negative. Once you’ve written your six qualities, shuffle them separately and draw one from each pile.

When I did it, I intended up with these two:

Admire - Someone who makes friends everywhere they go. Every project, holiday and job results in them making more great friends.

Dislike - Someone who is rude to waiters, waitresses and shop assistants


Now imagine that these two qualities belong to the same character. They have both the good and bad qualities. You may find that these qualities contradict each other but that’s okay. Human beings can be complicated. 


Questions to ask about the character:

  • Why do they have the admirable quality? What happened in their life/upbringing that has made them like this? Is it deliberate?
  • In what circumstances do they exhibit the negative behaviour? Every day? Occasionally? Whilst under pressure? Do they know they’re like this? Why do they behave like this?


Writing Task

If you do this for all six pieces of paper, you should create three characters. Imagine these three characters all know each other. They could be friends, family, colleague, etc. Write a short scene of the three of them spending time together. Where could they be? How do they get on? Why are they spending time together?