How To Create Great Characters For Your Novel or Screenplay

Writing course from NY Times-praised authors, book editors and writing coaches to help you create compelling characters
Rating: 4.1 out of 5 (24 ratings)
327 students
English [Auto]

How to craft compelling characters for a novel, screenplay or graphic novel
Gain an understanding of how conflict creates dynamic and memorable fiction characters
How to create situations for your characters that illuminate their strengths and weaknesses
How to create characters compelling enough to give you the momentum you need to write a commercially successful and publishable novel, screenplay, graphic novel
Learn how "want vs. need" and conflicts help build a transformational arc in your character


  • There are no prerequisites for this class, but the following is helpful:
  • The ability to download PDF worksheets, resource lists, writing prompts and exercises
  • Enthusiasm and a commitment to being the best writer you can be


Novel Lab co-founders, Ayn & Sam Gailey, take you through ten inspiring lectures to guide you toward the goal of creating memorable commercial characters. Using the same advice they give to their New York Times best-selling clients, they will teach you how to craft characters that will become the heart of your story. You will also gain an understanding of how your characters integrate with plot to create a powerful story. Perfect for beginner writers who want to create more original and moving characters.

Instructors will use the following books to illustrate character development: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; Deep Winter by Samuel W. Gailey; Harry Potter... by J.K. Rowling; The Girl On A Train by Paula Hawkins; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding, and others. 


Ayn & Sam helped me find the heart of my story and guided me through the writing, editing and publishing process with expertise, passion and a lot of patience. Without them, my book would not have made it onto the New York Times Bestseller list. 

— Lenny Dykstra, Lenny Dykstra: Memoir of Life on the Edge (Harper Collins 2016)

Ayn & Sam are unique and rare. They can write their own riveting books while also helping other writers create and complete their own stories, no matter how complex. They are also a pleasure to work with. 

— Amy Schiffman, literary manager/partner, IPG (Dennis Lehane, Don Delillo, James Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Richard Russo, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton)  

Gailey’s “Deep Winter” is enthralling and suspenseful, like a Michael Connelly or Lee Child crime novel, but more elegantly written.

— Esquire Magazine


Thanks to the guidance I received, I was able to hone the concept for my book and sign with a top book agent. Ayn & Sam know how to make the process inspiring and fun. 

— Shannon Bindler, Life Coach, Celebrity Stylist, Blogger  

"Deep Winter” by Samuel W. Gailey is beautifully written... 

— The New York Times

Gailey’s work is…so brilliantly done, so artfully underwritten with not a word wasted… 

— Booklist

Skillfully blending memoir and investigative journalism, Ayn Gailey tells a story with hilarious, self-deprecating wit and extreme honesty... 

— Library Journal

Tough, straight, upsetting, and strangely beautiful. One of the best sports autobiographies I’ve ever read. It comes from the heart. 

— Author Stephen King on "Memoir of Life On The Edge"

Who this course is for:

  • This course is great for beginning writers who want to elevate their characters to a higher level
  • For writers interested in writing commercial fiction, not experimental fiction
  • Great for writers who struggle with writing compelling and original characters


Critically-acclaimed authors and book whisperers
Ayn & Sam Gailey
  • 4.1 Instructor Rating
  • 24 Reviews
  • 326 Students
  • 1 Course

Ayn & Sam are critically-acclaimed authors, ghostwriters and editors. Their own work and projects on behalf of authors and publishers has been praised by notable critics of The New York Times, Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, Elle, Kirkus Reviews, Good Reads, Esquire and by author Stephen King, as well as by editors at Harper Collins, Random House, Running Press and Penguin. They have helped writers of all ages find their voice, write their stories and make their literary dreams happen. In addition to their published books, they have written for Showtime, Fox and PBS.

Ayn is a graduate of Harvard University and UCLA and holds a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting from UCLA Film School.  Her poignant yet humorous non-fiction book Pornology was published in the U.S. (Running Press), the UK (Random House), Germany, and Asia.  It was released as a feature film, entitled "A Nice Girl Like You," starring Lucy Hale, July 17, 2020 and was the number one romantic comedy on Appl for two months.  Her columns, SexYLA, were recently optioned for adaptation to TV by CaliWood Pictures.   

Sam holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from North Carolina. His scriptwriting has won the grand prize in Scriptapalooza, his first novel, Deep Winter (Penguin/Blue Rider Press), was critically-acclaimed by all major critics in the U.S. and France, described as "Beautifully written" by The New York Times, and reviewed by Esquire Magazine as " a Michael Connelly or Lee Child novel but more literary." His second novel, The Guilt We Carry, was called The Breaking Bad of the Book World by NY Journal of Books.  Sam is represented by literary agents at Zachary Schuster Harmsworth and his film rights are represented by Amy Schiffman.