Skip to Content

Characterization: 20 Tips to Develop Great Characters for Your Novel

Developing believable and realistic characters is crucial for engaging fiction. Here’s a framework you might find useful as you create wonderful characters:

  1. Understanding the Character’s Background:
    • Start by fleshing out the character’s background. Where were they born? What was their upbringing like? What major events have shaped their life? Knowing where your character comes from is key to knowing where she’s going.
  2. Motivations and Goals:
    • What does your character want? What are their goals, both short-term and long-term? These motivations will drive their actions throughout the story.
  3. Strengths and Weaknesses:
    • Every character should have strengths and weaknesses. These can be physical, emotional, or psychological. Consider how these traits impact their decisions and interactions with other characters.
  4. Personality Traits:
    • Develop a distinct personality for your character. Are they introverted or extroverted? Optimistic or pessimistic? Analytical or impulsive? Consistency in personality traits helps make characters feel more real.
  5. Physical Description:
    • Provide enough physical details to give the reader a mental image of the character, but avoid overwhelming descriptions. Focus on unique features or traits that stand out.
  6. Internal Conflict:
    • Internal conflict adds depth to characters. What fears, doubts, or insecurities do they have? How do these inner struggles influence their decisions and relationships?
  7. External Conflict:
    • Characters should face external challenges that force them to grow and change. These conflicts can be with other characters, society, nature, or even supernatural forces.
  8. Dialogue and Voice:
    • Pay attention to how your character speaks. Do they have a unique way of expressing themselves? Dialogue should be consistent with the character’s background and personality.
  9. Character Arc:
    • Characters should undergo some form of transformation throughout the story. This could be a change in beliefs, values, or behavior as a result of their experiences.
  10. Showing vs. Telling:
  • Instead of directly telling the reader about a character’s traits or motivations, show them through actions, dialogue, and thoughts. This allows readers to form their own impressions.
  1. Complexity and Contradictions:
  • Real people are complex and often contradictory. Embrace the complexity of your characters by giving them conflicting desires, emotions, and beliefs.
  1. Empathy and Relatability:
  • Help readers empathize with your characters by exploring universal themes and emotions. Even if a character’s experiences are vastly different from the reader’s, they should still be able to connect on some level.
  1. Backstory Relevance:
  • While it’s important to know your character’s backstory, only reveal details that are relevant to the plot or character development. Avoid info-dumping or including irrelevant backstory that bogs down the narrative.
  1. Relationships and Connections:
  • Characters should have meaningful relationships with other characters in the story. Explore how these connections influence their actions, beliefs, and emotions.
  1. Habits and Quirks:
  • Infuse your characters with unique habits, quirks, or mannerisms that make them memorable. These small details can add depth and authenticity to their personalities.
  1. Cultural Influences:
  • Consider how your character’s cultural background shapes their worldview, beliefs, and behaviors. Cultural influences can add layers to your character and provide insight into their motivations.
  1. Symbolism and Metaphor:
  • Use symbolism and metaphor to deepen the reader’s understanding of your character. Objects, animals, or recurring motifs can represent aspects of the character’s personality or journey.
  1. Response to Change:
  • How does your character respond to change, both internal and external? Do they embrace it, resist it, or feel ambivalent? Their response can reveal a lot about their character development.
  1. Secrets and Hidden Desires:
  • Give your character secrets or hidden desires that drive their actions beneath the surface. Revealing these secrets gradually can create tension and intrigue in your story.
  1. Evolution Over Time:
  • Characters should evolve and grow over the course of the story. Pay attention to how their experiences, relationships, and choices shape who they become by the end of the narrative.

These additional tips should help you create even more nuanced and compelling characters for your fiction writing.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.