5 Ways To Show Character Development

Telling you how to show character development in your novel is like me telling you how to write a book. It’s obvious, but it’s not. It’s easier said than done, yet you do it without realizing it. It’s probably stuff you already know about.

Still, sometimes a quick reminder is needed. It’s nice to see it laid out in a blog post. I know it is for me.

Maybe these posts help me more than anyone else.

1. Decide what your characters’ motivations are

Just like what we talked about the other day. Why are your characters in your story? What is their purpose? Why do they care about the plot and what do they contribute to it? What would they do in certain situations?

2. Give your characters flaws

No one is perfect. You can learn a lot about a character through their positive traits, but I feel like flaws can show a little more. Some flaws can be unexpected and they can come out in some interesting scenarios.

3. Give your characters internal conflict

The plot is important, yes, but everyone is fighting a battle no one else truly knows about. Giving your characters an internal conflict makes them more realistic and, depending on what it is, it can raise the stakes a bit. It gives insight into their thoughts, reasons behind their actions, and shows off their personality a little.

4. Use action and dialogue to your advantage

You can tell a lot about your characters through their actions, decisions, word choice, and tone. Using descriptive action and clever dialogue can show your readers a lot about your characters and I’m sure you’ll learn a lot too.

5. Allow your characters to surprise you

Most often than not, your characters will end up writing themselves. You can plan them all you want, but once you start writing they’ll try to take over. Let them because they have many ideas up their sleeve.

How else do you show character development? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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23 thoughts on “5 Ways To Show Character Development

  1. I like how simple this is yet it covers pretty much the basics. It helps us, as writers, to easily break down our character and who she/he is. Thank you. As a character-first writer, I always love hearing (or in this case, reading) other people’s ideas and perspectives on character development. This was great! Thank you.
    -Rhia
    “Live out the story you want to tell”

    • Thank you for your input. I’m glad you liked the post. 🙂
      Characters are so important to everything we write. They do drive the story, after all.

  2. Tip five reminded me of my character, Scarecrow. He surprised me because when I was writing the ending to my story (which I’m planning), I learned he had a problem with is mind. It was something I didn’t expect or think of adding.

    Because it was a surprise, I had to do some research until I found the one that fit Scarecrow. I learned he most likely has Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, or Dependent Personality Disorder. Because he has a mix of symptoms, I concluded he has Personality Disorder-Trait Specified.

    Problem: Scarecrow is the antagonist. Antagonist and Personality Disorder do not mix when developing the keystone character in a story! However, I can’t remove that piece of information without making Scarecrow fake. I don’t want to remove it because it gives me a challenge.

    Although I did some research, I’m afraid I might be misrepresenting all Personality Disorders. Any ideas?

    Excuse my lengthy comment.

    • You know, that’s a tough one. I’m not one
      for horror-type movies or anything (not that yours is horror, I’m just using it as an example) but I see the trailers and a lot of times the villain has some sort of disorder and they play it down like it’s a bad thing. Like, “anyone with this disorder will turn into a murderer at some point in their life.”

      That, I believe is misrepresenting personality disorders. HOWEVER, I think it also depends on how your character deals with their disorder. The disorder itself isn’t a bad thing – it makes the person who they are. Though they may treat their disorder in a bad way or see it as a flaw themselves before they come to terms with it. Other characters in the book might not understand the disorder and treat him differently and that could put Scarecrow down and he may perceive the disorder as a flaw based on what other people are thinking/telling him.

      All of this can eventually drive his antagonistic ways, but not because of the disorder itself but because of a lack of understanding it. As long as you, as the writer, can throw in enough tidbits here and there without throwing the story off to portray your knowledge of the disorder, I think it could work.

      Another helpful thing would be to maybe talk to someone who has this disorder. That sounds easier said than done, especially if you don’t know anyone, but a simple tweet on Twitter (or even Tumblr) asking for more information about a certain disorder can go a long way.

      I hope that helped/made sense. And sorry for the long response. I appreciate you reading and commenting on my post. 🙂 Good luck with your novel!

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