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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How To Show Your Character’s Backstory [Character Development]

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.

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Giving Your Characters Motivation [Character Development]

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.

Childhood

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.

Environment

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?

Personality Traits

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?

Action

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.

Dialogue/Thoughts

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.

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Character Basics: Physical Appearance [Character Development]

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.

How to describe your characters' physical appearance | Character development | Creating fictional characters | RachelPoli.com

Features To Think About

  • Height and weight
  • Body type
  • Eyes/eyebrows (shape, color)
  • Hair (style, length, color)
  • Skin (looks, feels, color)
  • Face (shape, facial hair)
  • Nose/ears
  • Mouth/teeth
  • Arms/hands
  • Legs/feet
  • Distinguishing features (makeup, scars, freckles, etc.)
  • Clothing style

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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Character Basics: Choosing A Name [Character Development]

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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?

Choosing A Name For Your Characters | Character Development | Creative Writing | Creating Characters | RachelPoli.com

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.

2. Baby Name Books

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!

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Supporting Characters In Novels Need Love Too

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.

Give your supporting characters some love | Supporting characters | Character Development | RachelPoli.com

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

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.

How to spread the love to your supporting characters | Character development | RachelPoli.com

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!

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9 Types Of Characters In Fiction

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.

The 9 Types of Characters in Fiction | Character Development | RachelPoli.com

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.

2. Dynamic or Developing Character

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.

9 Types of characters in fiction | Character development | RachelPoli.com

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.

8. Antagonist

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.

9. Villain

A villain is similar to the antagonist, but they are evil. As described in Sacha Black’s 13 Steps To Evil: How To Craft Superbad Villains, they have evil actions and motives that drive the plot.

What kinds of characters have you created? Are there any other character types you know about? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to chat!

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