Character Building / Characters / Writing

Build a Character: Using Natural Attributes to Add Depth

Thank fuck we’re done with physical, because that was kinda boring. So on to natural attributes.

Natural attributes are the inherent parts of a personality. It’s how someone adapted based on conditions of childhood.

But M, how is this different from the race and ethnicity last post?

Simple answer: because you can see them.

People treat others differently based on those things and are easily observable. Natural attributes are things that aren’t obvious, aren’t on the outside, but have an impact on how a person will turn out.

Once again, keep in mind your core personality as we wander are way through and refer to Plot versus Character by Gerke if you want to see where I got my information.

Hey Fam

Anyone who says their family didn’t affect who they are is either ignorant or lying.

So it’s not a surprise that family is the first stop on today’s adventure. This is my go-to step when trying to figure out a character. Did your character have two parents? No? Ok, which one did they have? Was it a big family? Adoptive family? Were they wealthy? Poor?

All of those things are going to affect what a child focuses on, notices, builds. And because of those early years are our formative years, it’s a massive part of who we become. The amount of therapy I’d need to undo my childhood is… well, a lot.

A character with a large family is going to be more capable of navigating social situations. An only child is going to be less considerate of others feelings. A wealthy child is more likely to take risks. Don’t worry, we’ll add to these examples in a minute.


What kind of education did they receive? A few years of formal? A private tutor? Were they only allowed to learn certain subjects? *(for an example of how this might affect a person, see Season 1 Ep. 5 of The Crown. It’s on netflix.)

Were they not given an education at all? Did their education come in the form of skills, such as farming, sewing, fishing, etc?

Imagine a parent decides to homeschool their child and gears the education towards learning the stock market. They start in kindergarten. They learn their basics, learn to read with children stories set on Wall Street. Everything they learn sets them up to work with stocks.

How would that child react to those choices as he gets older? Would he fight it? Regret it? Maybe he wonders what could have been if they’d just picked a different subject. Or maybe he buys his parents beautiful things and takes them to one place on their bucket list each year because he’s so grateful for their choices.

Now compare that to a child who is sent to boarding school. He’s home for every holiday and always has the best of everything. He isn’t spoiled rotten by any means, but he never has to worry about things. He carries around the newest phone and goes to see his favorite bands in concert.

Can you tell me what’s missing?

What about a boy who grew up in the public school system? He’s busted ass for every grade he has, but has no connections in the real world besides whatever he’s managed to make. He had to follow a strict diet of whatever the school decided he needed to learn and has to foster his own sense of curiosity and logic.

Starting to see how education is important?


Finally, consider natural ability. Which talents would have been fostered in their home? Which ones abandoned?

The stock trader’s child who had a talent for oil panting may not have been given an opportunity to love his artistic gift. Or maybe his parents thought it a good way to balance his life and allowed him to try.

The public school boy has a love of cultures. He craves finding new people, diving into their customs, changing his bucket list to reflect each new place he wants to go. But without the money to go to those places, he develops a talent for languages in an attempt to satisfy his wanderlust.

Do you see where these can go? These can help you come up with story ideas or flesh out a character that already has a story. Either way, the worst case scenario is that you end up with a better understanding of your character. Take into account ethnicity, race, family, socio-economical status, even their closest relationships. They’ll help determine how your character will act in the future.

Keep writing, Lovelies


Main Source: Gerke, Jeff. Plot versus Character

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