The L&L Blog  /  Writing

6 Cool Character Ideas for Your Novel | Literature & Latte

Great novels contain memorable, believable characters that readers connect with. Here are some character development ideas.

Plot and character are the two main elements of a novel, but it's most often character that readers remember. Fully realized characters come to life in the mind of readers, and readers identify with them and their difficulties. Readers hope and grieve with characters; they feel their joy and pain. 

In Never Outline (How to Write a Mystery, ed. Lee Child and Laurie R. King), Lee Child says:

It's very rare to remember a book for plot alone. Again, great characters with great voices enmeshed in a great plot make a book memorable. Absolutely. But the characters and the voices come first. They're the necessary prior condition. Without them, the plot won't even happen. Because the reader will stop reading.

With that in mind, here are 6 cool character development ideas for your novel.

Quirky characters

When you are searching for ideas for characters, think of quirky traits your characters may have. Characters can be memorable because of their behavioral quirks, and they can be described with a few deft sentences. Lee Child's own character, Jack Reacher, stands out by his size - he is 6 feet five inches tall, unlike the 5'7" Tom Cruise who played him in two films - and wanders around with no possessions. Child has described Reacher as a "knight-errant," an archetypal character that has been in stories for millennia. He comes to a town, solves a mystery, then rides off into the sunset. 

Sherlock Holmes is another good example of a quirky character. With his deerstalker hat, his pipe, his violin, and his cocaine habit, Holmes became one of the most memorable characters in literature. 

When searching for character ideas, find quirks that are memorable, but avoid having too many quirks; that can make a character unbelievable. 

Cool character names

The king of character names is Charles Dickens. In his 15 novels and his many stories and novellas, he created characters with memorable names that also described their personalities. Ebeneezer Scrooge is so memorable that his last name - scrooge - has become a common term for a miser. Inspector Bucket was a policeman in Bleak House. Canon Crisparkle, in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, is described thus:

"Mr Crisparkle, Minor Canon, early riser, musical, classical, cheerful, kind, good-natured, social, contented, and boy-like."

Meanwhile, Krook was an alcoholic who ran a rag and bottle shop and lodging house in Bleak House.

Some of the bestcool character ideas come from names. You can use Scrivener's Name Generator to find names that resonate to create characters for your novel. 


People you know

If you're looking for ideas for characters, think about people you know. It's obviously not a good idea to make characters too close to your friends and family, but think of people you've known in your life - teachers, co-workers, or friends - that have interesting character traits. Maybe they walked in a certain way; held their head at a certain angle; or had a memorable expression. You can get character development ideas from an amalgam of different traits from multiple people. 

A good way to come up with characters ideas is to make a list of all these quirky character traits of all the people you know, and think how you can combine them to make realistic characters. 


Sometimes, ideas for characters can come from people's voice; not the sound of their voice, but the way they speak. As Lee Child said above, "great characters with great voices [...] make a book memorable." Take character ideas from the way people speak: they could be people you know, as above, or you could get inspiration from movies and books. If you want to write a hard-boiled mystery, think of some of the great lines from The Maltese Falcon.

- We didn't exactly believe your story, Miss Wonderly. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right.

- All we've got is that maybe you love me and maybe I love you.

- The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.

Sam Spade is a memorable character because of his disdain for people and his snarkiness, and the mystery genre is full of great characters with memorable voices. 

Character development ideas

Good characters are believable, but good characters also grow. If you want character development ideas, think of the way characters change in the novels you have read, and use these ideas for characters in your own fiction. No person is two-dimensional; there is always more to people than you see on the surface. While character quirks may make a  believable character, you have to go beyond such simple ideas. 

Real characters have goals and motivation, and they experience conflict. After all, the key to compelling fiction is conflict how characters react to it, and how they grow as a result of overcoming obstacles. So build your character ideas around what the characters seek to accomplish.  

Archetypal characters

Another way to develop cool characters is to base them on archetypes. Best known through the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung, archetypal figures are characters that have appeared throughout history in stories, and that we have come to know in our subconscious. Jung's archetypal characters include the great mother, the father, the child, the devil, the god, the wise old man, the wise old woman, the trickster, and the hero.

You can come up with many character ideas by examining these archetypes. Think of Frodo as the hero; Gandalf as the wise old man; and Gollum as the trickster. But archetypal characters go beyond Jung's simple list: orphans, mentors, fools, and rebels are also common archetypes. 

Bonus: Keep track of your characters

When writing characters, you need an app built to keep track of them. Scrivener has character sketches, documents in the Binder, which you can use to keep notes on your characters. You can write their descriptions, their backstory, and even add photos of people who you think your characters may resemble. Read How to Manage Your Characters in Scrivener to learn more about these features. 


Scrivener is writing software designed for you to get writing – and keep writing. Scrivener is the go-to program for writers of all genres, with best-selling novels, screenplays, nonfiction books, student essays, academic papers and more being written with it every day. Scrivener won’t tell you how to write; instead, it will give you everything you need to get started and keep writing, letting you mould the app to how you work best. Why not take a look?

Keep up to date