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.
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.
This month we’ve talked a lot about what shapes a character and what makes our characters great characters who stand out. We’ve talked about different ways to develop our characters in many different ways.
One great way to develop our characters is to shy away from the main story. Not too much of course, but getting to know your characters on a deeper level, especially for your readers, is a surefire way to develop your characters.
Why Is Your Character’s Backstory Important?
We all have a backstory and giving your character’s a backstory shows significant events that happened in the past before the main plot of your novel occurs. Some events and decisions that are made in the past have a connection to something that will happen in the present or future. There are a cause and effect for everything.
Knowing certain parts of your character’s backstory is important because it shows how your character came to be and allows some insight into who they are and where they came from for your readers. Plus, it helps you as the writer to get to know your own character a bit.
How Can You Show Your Character’s Backstory?
Add balance – Avoid info dumping
When showing your backstory, show bits and pieces of it at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with flashbacks and mini-stories that may or may not have anything to do with the main plot. Spread it out and only explain some backstory when it shows a character’s growth through the main story.
Show past events that shape your character
Why did they make a certain decision? Maybe something similar happened in their past and your character doesn’t want to make the same mistake. You can show what happened in the past or have your character explain what happened to other characters.
Make sure the backstory is relevant to the plot
Adding to the previous point, if you’re going to reveal some part of your character’s past, make sure it has something to do with the main plot. You don’t want to be explaining something completely out of left field. It will confuse your readers making them wonder why they need to know that, why it’s important. Only add relevant information.
Remember the backstory is not the main point of the story
Some people write prequels or even novellas based on certain characters. I’m good with those, go for it. However, if you’re writing the main novel make sure the backstory doesn’t overshadow the main plot. If a novella based on a certain character is planned, I don’t see why you can’t leave a slight cliffhanger in some backstory. Of course, again, don’t make it super prominent and don’t tease your readers with it making them forget about the main plot.
What other advice do you have for showing backstory? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
In real life, everyone has something they’re working towards. We all have a purpose, try to stand out, and – hopefully – do the right thing.
This goes for your characters as well. They’re all trying to live either own lives in the fictional world you created. They’re trying to stand out to your readers and they have a purpose to aid the plot in moving further.
In order to get to know your characters on a deeper level and figure out what they’re purpose is, you need to know one thing. Their motivations.
What Is Motivation?
Motivation allows your readers to figure out who the characters are and why they make the choices they make. It’s because of their motivations that the story is able to keep moving forward. However, it’s some decisions based on your characters that will make that good or bad.
Where Does Motivation Come From?
Motivation can come from anywhere, anything, and everyone. One thing can influence your character for better or worse.
Depending on whether your character had a happy childhood or not can show who they are as an adult. Certain experiences will remain in the back of their minds that they’ll take with them to adulthood.
Your character’s surroundings have a lot do with how they’ll act as well. Are they around good-hearted people? Chances are they’ll be influenced to make similar decisions. Are they happy where they are or not?
Any trait you give your character will stand out and show who your character is. For example, if you have a character with an ambitious mind, chances are they may be a workaholic. How would that affect their home life? Their friends?
How Do You Show Motivation?
Every action has a reaction. One of the best ways to reveal your character is to show them doing something. Is there a problem? How do they solve it? There are a cause and effect for everything, think about how each situation will change your character in a way.
Your character will reveal a lot about himself if we’re able to see inside his head. His interactions with other characters will certainly show that as well. How does he act around people he likes? Dislikes? A crowd?
Let Your Reader Infer
You don’t need to reveal absolutely everything. Leave some room to show what your character is capable of, but allow your reader to get a feel for the character by inferring certain traits about them. Let them discover it for themselves and they’ll be eager to see what happens next.
What are some motivations you give your characters? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
We’re all unique from one another, we all look and appear differently. Yes, people have identical twins or doppelgangers hanging around in other parts of the world, but we’re all made up differently.
Our appearance ranges from different hairstyles, body size and shape, the clothes we wear, and much more. There’s a lot to think about when you’re trying to paint a picture of multiple people in your stories for your readers.
Features To Think About
Height and weight
Eyes/eyebrows (shape, color)
Hair (style, length, color)
Skin (looks, feels, color)
Face (shape, facial hair)
Distinguishing features (makeup, scars, freckles, etc.)
When creating your character, it’s good for you to know most, if not all, of these features. Of course, your readers don’t need every nitty-gritty detail. I mean, you don’t typically describe your characters’ eyebrows, do you?
No, but if you want to get the whole picture for you, then it’s something to think about when you’re sketching out your characters.
How To Describe Your Characters
1. Use figurative language
You don’t need to straight up tell your readers, “Rachel had brown hair and blue eyes.” You want your readers to be able to picture Rachel and infer for themselves what she looks like. Yes, there will be some things you can blurt out, but for the most part, you want to show, not tell.
2. Describe facial expressions
A big way to show off facial features is to describe their expressions. Did someone tell a funny joke? How do they laugh? Do they show their teeth? When they cry, does makeup run down their face? Are they an ugly crier?
3. Describe throughout the story
I’ve read books where a new character is introduced and then there’s a paragraph or two all about them. It can work, but I always found it better to show how the character looks and acts the deeper you get into the story. First impressions are fine, but we don’t need to know their looks top to bottom right away.
4. Show description through actions
It’s easy to visualize what your characters look like when they show off how they act. For example, maybe a character plays with their hair when they’re nervous. Or maybe they’re reapplying lipstick while gossiping with a friend.
5. Allow characters to comment on each other
We all have an opinion on something and so do your characters. Your main character, especially in the first person, can comment on the other characters. Maybe your protagonist likes or dislikes them, but why? Do they smell? Is their hair greasy or does it look better than theirs?
6. Show the way they move
You can tell a lot by a person and their mood at how they move. Do they slouch? Do they move slow? Do they take big steps when walking?
7. Make it important to know
You don’t need to describe every inch of your characters. Like I said before, your characters’ eyebrows aren’t really important. Unless they dye them or shave them off or something… the point is, not everything is important. You can always leave room for your readers’ imagination.
8. Less is more
Going along with the point above, you don’t need to describe everything. Not just because it may not be important, but so that your readers can infer themselves.
9. Check yourself out
A fun exercise can be to look at yourself in the mirror. Describe what you see, make different facial expressions and describe those. Look at photographs, old and new, and describe the people you see. Make up some new features if you want.
What other tips do you have for describing your characters? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to chat!
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What’s one of the first things you do to create your character? You come up with a name.
Well… Sometimes it’s difficult and I’ll admit I’ll throw in a random name and keep it bolded until I change it later.
For the sake of this post, we’re going to pretend the first thing we always do is name our characters.
A name is the most important thing you can give to your characters. It’s their identity and it separates them from everyone else inside the story and outside. Give them a name your readers will remember and appreciate. When you hear the name Harry Potter, you instantly know who I’m talking about, right?
1. Name Dice
I talked about this app when talking about fun ways to create characters. This is a free app I have on my iPad that does exactly what it says. You tap the screen to roll a pair of dice, one reveals a first name and the other reveals a surname.
It’s a great randomizer when you don’t know what to name your characters. It’ll give you ideas for other characters as well.
Go to your local bookstore or library and pick out some baby naming books. Most of them include genders, origin, and meanings, which is extremely helpful when finding a good name for your character. The baby name book I have even had sections based on “names based on flowers” or “names based on gems” and the like.
3. Baby Name Genie
This is a website where you type in the last name and you can choose or gender if you want. The genie will then find the perfect first and middle name to go along with the last name. You can do this as many times as you like and I always find it a fun way to discover new names.
How do you typically come up with names for your characters? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to chat!
When it comes to writing novels everyone always talks about two major characters: the main character and the bad guy. However, there are so many other characters to consider when writing a novel.
There are side characters, major or minor characters, secondary characters, however, you want to explain it.
If you think about it, your protagonist wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for the help of their supporting characters.
What is a supporting character?
It’s a character in a novel who supports the main character through the plot. They’re not the main focus of the story, but they aid the story in various ways. This can be shown through major or minor characters or secondary characters. Or, maybe a passerby kind of character.
3 examples of supporting characters
The Best Friend
Your main character’s friend may have nothing to do with the plot, but they may get roped into a few things here and there. They’re the perfect opportunity to add a little friction as well. Everyone argues with their best friend and it’ll add one more annoying thing to your main character’s list.
The mentor or teacher is the character who, of course, guides or advises the main character. It may or may not have anything to do with the plot, but most often than not, the main character finds a way to use their teachings to push the plot forward.
The Love Interest
Everyone has a little love in their life and that includes your main character. Sometimes this goes with the plot and other times it doesn’t. Sometimes it even distracts the main character from the plot. Either way, it keeps things interesting.
Treat your supporting cast like any other character.
Supporting characters are just like any other character. The plot just isn’t about them. That’s okay though, they’re still characters who are important to the story.
With that said, be sure to:
Give them a backstory – This doesn’t have to be too in-depth depending on how often they’ll appear in the story, but it helps.
Give them good traits – They must be helping the main character for some reason, right?
Give them bad traits – Everyone makes mistakes. Or, maybe they’re helping for the wrong reasons.
Supporting characters are characters too and they need a lot of attention as well.
What are some of your favorite types of supporting characters? How else do you develop them? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to chat!
Did you know there are different types of characters? I mean, in addition to the typical “protagonist” and “antagonist.”
Each and every character you create is important. It doesn’t matter if they’re a minor character, a main character, or secondary. Each and every one of them has a job to do and they need to do it well.
1. Confidante Character
A confidante is someone or something the main character confides in. Readers can learn a lot about the main character’s personality and thoughts through this. The confidante can be another character or it can be the inside pages of the main character’s diary.
A dynamic character is someone who changes throughout the story. This may be a good change or a bad one, but their motivations, desires, or even their personality changes due to something in the story. This is usually a permanent change and shows how the character has learned and developed over time in the story.
3. Flat or Static Character
A flat character is the opposite of a dynamic character. A flat character doesn’t change much or at all throughout the story. Their personality and/or background isn’t revealed well and we only know a handful of traits about them.
4. Foil Character
A foil character is someone who is the opposite of another character. They reflect the opposite traits, hence a foil character. Your main character can be sweet and caring and the foil character will bring out that side by being nasty. It contrasts two characters.
5. Round Character
A round character is similar to a dynamic character. They change throughout the story gaining new traits, some traits opposite to who they used to be.
6. Stock Character
A stock character is just stock photos you can get off the internet. They are not a big deal to the story, they don’t change at all, they’re pretty much cliche characters such as the “dumb jock” or “popular cheerleader.”
7. Protagonist or Main Character
Main characters are the root of the story. They will develop over time and will ultimately be part of the driving force of the plot. This is the character your readers will care most about.
An antagonist is the opposite of your protagonist. They will oppose your main character. They will, along with the main character, be the driving force behind the plot.
Creating characters isn’t always as easy as it seems. Sometimes the characters come to us and other times we have to chase them down.
I do think the creating of characters one of the most fun parts of writing a novel.
Characters go places we’ve never been. Characters can do things we’ve never dreamed of doing. Characters can be similar to us or they can be vastly different.
But how do you create characters that are similar but not exactly the same as the people around you? How can you create characters that have more experience than you in a given field?
1. Randomize Everything
I have two apps on my iPad: Name Dice and Lists for Writers. The Name Dice is exactly how it sounds. You tap the screen and the dice roll. The first die shows the first name and the second shows the last name. When you’re stuck on naming your character, the Name Dice really help, even if you change it later.
Lists for Writers is also what it sounds like. It has a bunch of lists from names to physical appearance to traits and more for characters. Click on a list and everything will be in alphabetical order. However, there’s a shuffle button. Tap that and use the first three or five items that pop up. There’s your character.
You can also go as simple as getting your own pair of dice or a 20-sided die. If your character’s birthday is important to the story, roll the dice. It’s 1-12, same as the months of the year. You can choose to randomize anything and everything.
2. Base Them On Real People
No, you don’t want to throw everyone you know in your story. Not exactly, anyway.
However, it’s easy to take what you already have and mix it up into something else. You can take bits and pieces of one thing and add in pieces from another. Mix and match people, just like you mix and match your socks.
Start with yourself and someone close to you. What are traits you have that your friend doesn’t and vice versa? How can you mix those together to create a new person?
I’ve seen so many users on Pinterest create Character Boards. They base a whole board off of one character. They pick out fashion ideas, color palettes, hairstyles, and more. Even if you don’t know where to start, explore Pinterest a bit. Look at other character board or just type in something as simple as “sundresses” and see what catches your eye.
Close your eyes. What color comes to mind when you think of yourself? What day of the week would you associate yourself with the most? Are you more like summer or winter? Why?
Comparing yourself to things that are not other human beings shows you a lot about who you are. Now do that with your character, even if you don’t have a character yet. Pick a name and think about what that person may be like.
5. Use Your Plot
If you already have a plot made up for your story, use it. What kinds of characters would fit best? What are your characters’ motivations to making the plot move forward? What kinds of people can you see being thrown into that situation?
6. Write Short Stories
Yeah, I know. This seems like more work than anything else. Sometimes the best way to get to know your characters is to just write about them. Write a flash fiction piece using your character and see what s/he does in certain situations. Let the characters create themselves.
I’m talking a lot about dice today. Don’t ask me why it’s just fun.
There are these cool sets of dice with pictures and symbols on each side. It’s a game that you roll the dice and make up a story based on what comes up. There’s no set of dice for characters alone, but there’s an “action” set. Besides, I think you can use your imagination and come up with something. Ideas are everywhere.
What are some ways you create your characters? Have you tried any of these ways? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to chat!
NaNo is coming! It’s about 20 days away… already. It’s coming up fast and there’s no stopping it.
Some people outline their novels, some people don’t. There are some people who do quick writing exercises or prompts as practice to prep for the upcoming writing streak. Some people don’t.
No matter what you do or don’t do, that’s okay. I personally love to outline and I love to try new things with my characters to get to know them a little better.
So, here’s a fun exercise to do with your characters.
I got this idea from my 15-year-old cousin. She had English homework one night and had to do this for the protagonist of her summer reading book.
I have to admit, I was a bit jealous. I never had fun homework like that.
The idea is to think a bit outside the box and to get to know your characters on a deeper level. To the naked eye, it doesn’t make sense, but to a writer, it’s pretty clever.
So, ask yourself this:
Is your protagonist (or any character) more like…
May or December?
A Jeep, a Corvette, a Saturn, or a Mercedes Benz?
Brown or blue?
The letter A, the letter M, or the letter Z?
Vanilla ice cream or chocolate mousse?
New York, San Fransico, Salt Lake City, or New Orleans?
A hammer or a nail?
White, rye, or pumpernickel bread?
A short story, a poem, an essay, or a play?
Soap or dirt?
Fire, water, earth, or air?
A lock or a key?
The comics, the sports section, the business report, or the editorial page?
A snowstorm or a rainy day?
A horse show, a hockey match, or a track-and-field event?
A forest fire or a mountain stream?
A TV game show, a soap opera, a situation comedy, or a drama?
Science fiction, mystery, romance, or horror?
A cat, a dog, or a goldfish?
My cousin’s teacher had the class do this on themselves first so they could get a feel for the assignment. My cousin said she was more like “pumpernickel bread” because it’s a funny word. That right there actually sums up her personality. She’s a funny person and can sometimes be a dope. The fact that she immediately thought “pumpernickel” was a funny word and laughed just sums it all up.
With this exercise, you can get to the heart of your characters. It seems silly and random, but you just might learn something new about them.
Have you done anything like this before? Do you think you’ll try this exercise? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!