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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7 Helpful And Fun Ways To Create Characters

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?

7 helpful and fun ways to create characters | Creating fictional characters | Character development | RachelPoli.com

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?

3. Use Pinterest

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.

4. Think Outside The Box

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.

7 Helpful and fun ways to create characters | Creating fictional characters | Character development | RachelPoli.com

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.

7. Use Story Cubes

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!

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Creating Characters: What’s Your Favorite Part?

Creating characters for your novels isn’t necessarily an easy task, but it’s important and it can be fun.

We talked a lot about characters this month. There’s a whole lot more to explore when it comes to characters, but I think we covered a decent amount. I’m sure there will be another month when I discuss characters again. (That means, yes. Yes, there will be another character-orientated month.)

So, I’m asking a simple question today. What’s your favorite part about creating characters?

creating-characters-favorite-part

A lot goes into bringing character to life and making them unique from other characters in your novel and other characters from other novels written by other people.

First, there’s the physical description. How long do you spend trying to decide whether or not your protagonist has brown, blonde, or purple hair? Did they get their green eyes from their mother or father? Or maybe from her great-great-aunt?

What kind of clothes do they wear? Do they always try to look presentable or do they just not care? Make-up? Jewelry?

How tall or short are they? Are they a twig or husky? Do they have a huge nose or teeny-tiny ears?

Then, there’s the personality. Are they self-conscious about that huge nose? Or do they not care what others think about them?

Are they nice to everyone or just their close friends? Are they pleasant to be around? Do they have any normal/weird habits or hobbies? What’s their favorite anything? Food, clothes, color, etc.

Third, you have their background story. What’s their family and home life like? Do they have any friends? A large group or just one best friend?

How did they get to where they are today? What kinds of decisions do they make?

Now here’s the important question: do you like to plan your characters out, like I just did above, or do you like free writing and see where they take you?

I think writing characters is so much fun because you can place them in certain worlds and situations that you can’t normally be part of. Your characters are a little piece of you and you live vicariously through them.

So, what’s your favorite part about creating your characters? Let me know in the comments below!

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How To Create Unforgettable Characters

Characters are one of the most important aspects of a novel. You can’t have a great story without a great cast of characters.

But what does a character entail? A personality, physical description, motive, likeness, relatability, and so much more.

A lot goes into being a character, but how do you make the type of character that readers wish were real? That readers want to know about, want to be their friends, that never want to forget them?

how-to-create-unforgettable-characters

Think of your character as your best friend.

No, I’m not saying you should base your protagonist off of your real life best friend. Our books are our babies, which means our characters are just one personality trait our books have. We want to make it a good one. And, as our book grows and matures, we want our characters to make a good first impression on our readers.

(That analogy escalated quickly…)

Anyway, when creating a character, you should ask yourself certain questions:

  • What qualities would I look for in a friend?
  • What kind of personality would I want to hang around with all the time?
  • Is this the type of person I would love to be friends with? Or I would love to hate?

Our main goal is to create a likeable protagonist, right? So, I said again, think of your character as your best friend.

You want to go on a journey with this person, you want to hear about their day, know about every detail of their life. Well, maybe not every detail.

Getting to know your character.

There are two ways to get to know your characters: speed dating–plan them out–or take it slow–let them take their life into their own hands.

Speed dating

You can give your character full life and breath before you even begin writing. This is done through interviews and character charts.

Become one with your character and interview them. Ask them about their home life, ask them what they would do in certain situations, ask them what they want to accomplish.

Or, you can fill out a character chart, which is a bit more in-depth. Ask yourself, what’s their hair and eye color? What are their favorite things? Who are they related to? Do they have a job? What about hobbies?

Then, when all that is said and done, ask yourself one more question: Is any of this information needed for the story?

Take it slow

Whether you outline your novels or not, you always have some sort of basic idea of what you want to accomplish in the story, the plot.

Often times, your characters take things a different way. You may begin writing with a certain idea of how you want your character to act and behave, but then they do something out of left field and surprise you.

So, you don’t have to map our your characters. Not completely, anyway. They know what they want.

But what does this mean for your novel, for your readers? You have your character flushed out, sure, but why would your character’s favorite color matter to your readers?

Make the character believable

It seems easy, but it’s actually pretty easy to create flat, bland characters. So, how do you achieve this?

Make them stand out from the crowd.

Give them a unique voice. Give them some special traits and tasks from the rest of the characters. Allow the readers to point the protagonist out and understand that the story is about them.

Give them flaws.

No one is perfect in real life and neither are fictional characters. If you had a protagonist with no weaknesses, then there would be a short, boring story. The conflict would be resolved before it even began.

Give them inner conflict.

The external conflict is the plot, everyone is freaking out about that issue. But, your character has something else going on, inner demons that are bothering him. Show that, let your readers feel that inner conflict. Let your readers understand how your character feels.

Give them realistic emotions.

Show how your character feels. We’ve all experienced life and death, the first day of school and work, opening birthday presents, our car breaking down, love and heartbreak, and everything else in between. Let your readers feel their frustration, their happiness, their sadness.

Allow your characters to have some secrets.

Let your readers try to figure out your characters. Let them wonder what makes them tick. We don’t always know why we do what we do. Maybe your characters know why, maybe they don’t, but let your readers ponder on that.

Allow your characters to grow and develop.

Use your character as a lesson for your readers. What did your character learn through their journey? What’s the moral of the story?

Give your characters room to grow with your readers and allow your readers to really care and enjoy following your characters on their journey.

If your readers love and care about the characters, they’ll keep reading the story.

Who are some of your favorite characters? What do you have in mind when you create characters? Let me know in the comments below!

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