Unlocking the Power of ChatGPT for Character Development: A Guide for Writers

Anurag Kumar
9 min readJan 17, 2023
Created using Midjourney. Prompt: AI doing Character Development

As a writer, creating rich, well-rounded characters is essential to crafting a compelling story. However, the process of fleshing out characters can be time-consuming and challenging, especially when it comes to generating detailed descriptions, backstories, and internal thoughts. This is where the power of ChatGPT comes in.

By inputting information about characters and providing prompts, writers can use ChatGPT to generate detailed descriptions, dialogue, backstories, and possible scenarios and events for their characters.

This guide will explore how ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for writers to develop complex and compelling characters. We will provide examples of inputting information and receiving output from ChatGPT for character descriptions, backstories, internal thoughts, and possible scenarios and events. Additionally, we will discuss tips and tricks for getting the most out of ChatGPT when developing characters.

Whether you’re a professional writer or just starting out, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools to take your character development to the next level with ChatGPT.

Overview of ChatGPT

To begin, it’s important to understand what ChatGPT is and how it works. ChatGPT is a powerful language model developed by OpenAI, trained on a vast amount of text data, and capable of generating human-like text in response to prompts. That being said, it is not creative and does not have creative intelligence. It would be more realistic to look at it as a database that we can refer to rather than as an intelligent artificial “being.”

One of the major applications of ChatGPT is for chatbots, where it can generate human-like responses to user input. However, ChatGPT can also be used for writing assistance and even creative writing.

When it comes to character development, ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for writers. By inputting information about characters and providing prompts, writers can use ChatGPT to fill in the blanks to generate detailed descriptions, dialogue, backstories, and possible scenarios and events for their characters. This can save writers significant effort that would have been spent brainstorming and writing these elements manually.

It’s important to note that while ChatGPT’s output can be a great starting point, it’s always prudent to ensure it fits your own vision for the character and your story. ChatGPT is a tool that takes away the cold start problem of looking at a blinking cursor on an empty screen or a blank sheet of paper and is not a replacement for the writer’s creativity.

ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can help writers develop rich, well-rounded characters and bring their stories to life. Now, let’s dive into a few examples.

1. Using ChatGPT for Character Descriptions

Character description is one of the most basic and essential elements of character development. A detailed and well-written character description can give readers a clear understanding of a character’s physical appearance, personality, and background.

Using ChatGPT to generate character descriptions can be done by inputting specific information that you want to include about the character, such as their name, age, occupation, and personality traits. For example, if we input the following information for a character named Sarah:

ChatGPT fills in the blanks and makes Sara a well-rounded character.
Create character description for
Name: Sarah Age: 25 Occupation: Lawyer Personality: Ambitious, driven

ChatGPT generates the following output:

“Sarah is a 25-year-old lawyer who is highly ambitious and driven. She is determined to succeed in her career and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. Despite her youth, she is already making a name for herself in the legal world, and is known for her intelligence, dedication, and hard work. Despite the high demands of her profession, Sarah is able to maintain a positive attitude and always looks for opportunities to improve herself.”

As you can see, this output gives us a much more detailed and rich picture of the character Sarah.

It’s important to remember that the output generated by ChatGPT is only a suggestion and should be used as inspiration. As the author, it’s up to you to use your creativity to finalize and polish the character description.

Generating character descriptions with ChatGPT can provide writers with a rich and detailed description that they can use to develop the character further.

2. Using ChatGPT for Backstory

A character’s backstory is crucial in understanding their motivations, actions, and decisions in a story. A well-crafted backstory can make a character feel more natural and relatable to readers.

Just like with character descriptions, ChatGPT can generate backstories for characters. By inputting information about a character’s past experiences, family, relationships, and other relevant information, ChatGPT can generate a detailed and coherent backstory.

For example, if we input the following information for a character named John:

ChatGPT brings John to life.
Create backstory for
Name: John Age: 35 Occupation: Police officer Family: Divorced, one daughter Trauma: Witnessed his partner getting shot in the line of duty

ChatGPT generates the following output:

“John is a 35-year-old police officer who has been on the force for over a decade. He is a dedicated and respected member of the department, known for his level-headedness and bravery in high-pressure situations. However, John has not had an easy life. He is divorced and has a daughter he loves dearly, but he struggles to balance the demands of his job with being a good father.

The hardest moment in his career was when he witnessed his partner getting shot in the line of duty. The event left him emotionally scarred, and he has struggled to cope with the trauma. He has had a hard time sleeping, and he has been haunted by nightmares of the incident. He has been through therapy and counseling, but he still carries a weight of the guilt. This trauma has also strained his relationships with his family and friends.

Despite these challenges, John remains committed to his job and to serving the community. He is determined to use his experience to make a positive impact on the world, and he is committed to making the streets safer for all. He is using his experience to become a mentor for new officers, helping them to cope with the emotional and mental stress of the job.”

As you can see, this output gives us a clear understanding of John’s past experiences, family background, and even his psychological struggles. It also gives us a glimpse into his motivations and why he became a police officer.

Using ChatGPT to generate backstories can help writers understand their characters better and craft more complex and relatable characters.

3. Using ChatGPT for Internal thoughts

Understanding a character’s internal thoughts can make them more relatable and realistic.

ChatGPT can generate characters’ internal thoughts by providing information about their current situation, their emotions, and their goals. For example, if we input the following information for a character named Emily:

ChatGPT may not be able to think, but it sure can write what your character is thinking!
Create internal thoughts for
Name: Emily
Situation: She's just been laid off from her job
Emotion: Devastated, Angry
Goal: To find a new job as soon as possible

ChatGPT generates the following output:

“As Emily cleaned out her desk, tears streaming down her face, her mind was racing. “How could they do this to me? I’ve been here for so long, and I’ve always done my best work. I can’t believe I’m losing my job.” She felt a mix of emotions — devastated, angry and helpless.

She thought about all the bills she had to pay and how she was going to make ends meet. She felt guilty for not seeing the signs and not looking for a job before this. She thought about the conversations she had with her family, who were counting on her income.

Despite her sadness and anger, Emily knew she had to focus on moving forward. Her goal was to find a new job as soon as possible, she couldn’t afford to waste any time. She knew it would be hard, but she was determined to make it happen. She thought about her strengths, her skills and her experience, and knew she would be a valuable asset to any company. She thought about starting to update her resume and looking for job openings. She also thought about reaching out to her network and asking for help.

The layoff was a hard blow, but Emily knew she could overcome this setback and find a new job that would be even better than the last one.”

This output just blows my mind. We can look inside Emily’s emotions and thoughts in this particular situation and her goal.

Remember, ChatGPT is not a creative entity that can come only from the writer. This can be the starting point and would need to be tweaked based on your inner map of the character.

ChatGPT helps bring that character out in the world, rather than the writer having to create a character from scratch. I like to think of this as starting with an initial template.

4. Using ChatGPT for Possible Scenarios

ChatGPT can help writers generate possible scenarios by providing information about the character, their goals, and the story’s context. For example, if we input the following information for a character named Michael:

ChatGPT created not one but five scenarios. It might induce choice paralysis.
Create possible scenarios
Name: Michael Goal: To become a successful businessman
Story context: The story takes place in the competitive world of business.

ChatGPT generates the following output:

  1. Scenario 1: Michael starts off as a small business owner, selling a unique product or service that he has developed. He works tirelessly to promote and grow his business, facing intense competition from larger companies. Despite the odds, Michael’s business takes off, and he becomes a successful entrepreneur.
  2. Scenario 2: Michael starts off working at a large corporation, but is unhappy with the bureaucracy and lack of opportunities for advancement. He quits his job and starts his own business, using the knowledge and contacts he gained at the corporation to his advantage. Despite initial struggles, Michael’s business grows, and he becomes a successful businessman.
  3. Scenario 3: Michael starts as a consultant, offering his expertise to small businesses to help them grow and succeed. Through hard work and dedication, Michael’s consulting business becomes well-known and respected, and he is able to transition into becoming a successful businessman in his own right.
  4. Scenario 4: Michael starts off as an investor, carefully analyzing and investing in promising startups. Through a combination of skill and luck, Michael’s investments pay off, and he becomes a successful businessman and venture capitalist.
  5. Scenario 5: Michael starts off as a salesperson, working his way up the ranks in a successful company. Eventually, he is offered an opportunity to start his own division of the company, which he grows into a successful business. Michael eventually leaves to start his venture, becoming a successful businessman.”

These are five totally different scenarios for a writer to choose from and inspire his story idea featuring Michael in a given context.

ChatGPT can be a great brainstorming tool to refine ideas, fill in the blanks, or create base templates for characters.

5. Tips and Tricks

  1. Give specific instructions to ChatGPT on what you want from it. Be as clear as possible.
  2. Break down complex tasks into specific individual tasks.
  3. ChatGPT remembers what is being discussed in a chat thread. It makes sense to keep separate chat threads for different stories or characters.
  4. It is better to use ChatGPT as a brainstorming and creative assistance tool rather than creating end products with it.
  5. The more inputs you provide, the more ChatGPT will be able to align character with your vision.
  6. Don’t forget ChatGPT is neither creative nor understanding. What it puts out is a product of referring to the repertoire humanity has built on the internet in the last decade.

6. Conclusion

Writers can bring their characters alive with ChatGPT by using it as a creative assistant and brainstorming tool. Character development is just one of the use cases. There are many other ways that ChatGPT can help you improve your creative and thinking process.

I have been exploring ChatGPT for a while now, and I am fascinated by its potential in the creative & thinking process. I’ll be posting more articles on this topic soon. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment. Keep in touch and let me know how was your experience with ChatGPT.

P.S. I would have postponed writing this article and eventually forgotten about it had I not co-authored it with ChatGPT.

--

--

Anurag Kumar

Founder, Prex Learning Studio. Sharing thoughts on ChatGPT, Midjourney & Generative AI use-cases. IITB-IIMB alumnus. ex-Wipro Global 100.