Generally, there are two types of characters:
"compound characters 合体" and "single component characters 独体".
And there are four character building methods: "pictogram 象形","ideogram 指事"、"indicatives 会意","phono-semantic 形声".
"Single component characters 独体" are characters that derive from "pictograms 象形" or "ideograms 指事".
pictogram: "人" means people "山" means hill "木" means wood
ideogram: "上" means up "下" means down "本" means origin
These types of characters should be remembered by rote, and they are often used as components in "compound characters 合体".
And 95% characters in modern Chinese are "Compound character 合体" .
About 90% or even more of the "compound characters 合体" are "phono-semantic 形声",
which means characters built with a semantic (形) part and a pronunciation（声）part.
"dove 鸠" is built with "九" and "鸟" .
means it's a kind of bird(鸟).
and its pronunciation is "jiū", which is similar to "九 jiǔ".
and there are "pigeon 鸽" "duck 鸭" "crow 鸦" "chick 鸡" "ostrich 鸵" ...
they are all kinds of birds.
then "steel 钢 " "iron 铁" "bronze 铜" "silver 银" ... are other examples
which use "钅"(simplified "金" radical ),
they are all kinds of metals.
Of course , there are lots of exceptions to this,
as the pronunciation may have changed since ancient times,
or because the parts may not have the exact same meaning [as originally].
But it's a good method to retain the characters together.
The "indicatives 会意" are another way of building "compound characters".
But not many characters are built this way.
e.g.: "尘", which means dust, consists of "小" (small) and "土" (soil).
So, you'd better learn the "single component characters 独体" by heart, and remember the "compound characters 合体" by their
radicals and components which are often the "single component characters 独体".
Here is a online tool I often use to look up characters by radicals:
NOTE：I'm using simplified Chinese characters here, but the rules are the same for traditional Chinese characters.
I will describe the way to learn "独体字" :
(My way is using Google before using this, but this may not suitable for you.)
See the character :
Write the character and input it into the PC (when it's on your PC, go to the next part):
For this part you need a Chinese IME. QQ Pinyin Or sogou Pinyin if you
know it's pinyin "拼音" and works in Windows. They both have
handwriting tool as well if you can only write it.
For Linux Users.
There is not any good handwriting IME. You can only use pinyin with
fcitx or ibus-pinyin.
You can use Cloud IME
or QQ’s Cloud IME both on Linux and Windows as well.
They only support pinyin currently.
Lookup the character you input in an online chinese dictionary like zdic:
search the character in it and check the 字源字形 tab. This means the
origin of the character.
If you can not input the character, you can check the character by
its radical 部首 using 【字典部首检字】.
the 矛 ‘s stroke 笔画 is five. So you look up in 笔画五 and you will find it
there. If not, check if it is using parts in 笔画一：丨亅丿乛一乙乚丶. In this
case, you can find it in 笔画五.
But if you are looking for "予", you can only find it in 乛 of 笔画一.
http://www.zdic.net/zd/zi/ZdicE7Zdic9FZdic9B.htm is the page you get about 矛’s 字源字形.
You can see the origin and evolution of the character.
And there is also basic info about it, like pronunciation, explanation and
It may help you understand the character better.
And the best way to learn a single character（矛 here) I think is to read, write and learn it in words (矛盾 here) many many times.
All student in primary and junior school in "语文" (Chinese Language Lessons) must do this over and over.
And in fact, we are using words not characters.
We don't use single 矛, as we haven't used spears for a long time.
But 矛盾, which means contradiction, are more vigorous.