Creating compelling characters is one of the most important aspects of writing a novel. Your characters are the heart and soul of your story, and they need to be well-developed in order to keep your readers engaged.
1. Establish the character’s story goal and motivation:
Your character’s current goal is why the story exists and what will propel their inner journey. Without it, the overall narrative arc would fall flat.
When writing a novel, it’s important to give your characters both external and internal goals that are strong enough to carry through the whole story. Here are some tips for creating strong goals:
- Establish goals at the beginning of the story: Your readers should know relatively early on what your main character wants.
- Establish inner conflict: Your character’s goals should be clear, but not immediately attainable. Even when Frodo…
- Establish a clear motivation: Your character’s motivation should be strong enough to carry them through the entire story.
- Make sure the goal is relevant to the plot: The character’s goal should be directly tied to the overall narrative arc.
- Create a sense of urgency: The stakes should be high enough that your character has no choice but to pursue their goal.
2. Give the character both strengths and flaws:
When it comes to character development, it’s important to remember that every character should have both strengths and flaws. These traits make them more relatable and human-like. Flaws can be minor or major, but they should always affect the character in a detrimental way. On the other hand, strengths can help your character overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Jay Gatsby is an example of a character with both strengths and flaws. He is determined to win back his lost love, Daisy Buchanan, but his obsession with her ultimately leads to his downfall.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Elizabeth Bennet is another example of a character with both strengths and flaws. She is intelligent, witty, and independent-minded, but she can also be stubborn and quick to judge others.
3. Create an external and internal conflict:
Conflict is what drives a story forward, so it’s important to give your character both an external and internal conflict.
Internal and external conflicts are two types of conflict that are commonly used in fiction books. Internal conflict refers to the struggles that a character faces within themselves, such as their emotions, thoughts, or beliefs. External conflict comes from other sources, a natural disaster, an evil force, a change in the world.
Internal conflicts can be used to create tension and drama within a story. They can also be used to develop a character’s personality and backstory. For example, a character may struggle with feelings of guilt or shame over past actions. This internal conflict can be used to create a more complex and relatable character.
External conflicts can be used to create obstacles for the protagonist to overcome. They can also be used to create tension and suspense within the story. For example, a character may face an external conflict with an antagonist who is trying to stop them from achieving their goal.
By using both internal and external conflicts in your story, you can create a more engaging and dynamic narrative. It’s important to remember that both types of conflict should be relevant to the story and should help to move the plot forward.
4. Decide whether the character is static or dynamic:
Avoid making your characters too perfect or too flawed. Instead, aim for a balance between strengths and flaws that makes them feel like real people.
In literature, static characters remain the same throughout the story, while dynamic characters undergo significant internal change throughout the course of the story.
Static characters are often used as a foil to dynamic characters, highlighting the changes that occur in the latter. They tend to differ in two other key areas as well: role in the story and complexity.
Dynamic characters are often protagonists of stories, but any character can be dynamic 1. They learn a lesson or change as a person (either for better or for worse) and are essential to bring your literary characters to life.
Here are some examples of static and dynamic characters:
- Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter is a prime example of a dynamic character. He starts off as a shy, introverted boy who is unsure of himself and his abilities. However, as the series progresses, he becomes more confident and self-assured, taking on leadership roles and fighting for what he believes in.
- The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins: Katniss Everdeen is another example of a dynamic character. She starts off as a survivor, doing whatever it takes to keep herself and her family alive. However, as the series progresses, she becomes more of a leader and a symbol of hope for the people of Panem.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Scout Finch is a static character who learns important lessons about racism and prejudice throughout the novel. She starts off as an innocent child who doesn’t understand the complexities of the world around her. However, by the end of the novel, she has matured and gained a deeper understanding of the world.
5. Give the character a backstory:
A backstory helps to flesh out your character and make them more relatable to readers. Here are some tips for writing character backstory:
- Start with the basics: Begin by identifying your character’s name, age, race, gender, and profession.
- Determine your character’s core values: Explore your character’s values, goals, and motivations, and the experiences that shaped them.
- Incorporate conflict: Ensure that your character’s backstory includes conflicts or challenges that have shaped them.
- Use specific details: Employ vivid descriptions and specific events to make the backstory tangible.
- Avoid clichés: Steer clear of overused tropes and ensure that your characters are flawed and relatable.
- Decide how and when to reveal the backstory: Use flashbacks, character musings, and recollections, or passages of exposition to reveal what came before.
- Drive the plot: Use the backstory to influence the character’s actions, decisions, and development in the main plot – no useless information, please!
Remember that backstory is an essential part of character development in fiction. It helps to establish the setting and makes the reader care about what happens to the characters. However, it’s important to remember that including too much backstory too soon can halt your story’s momentum
6. Develop the character’s external characteristics:
Make sure your characters are distinguishable from one another by giving them unique physical attributes. Physical attributes such as eye colour, hair colour, height, do they wear any particular accessories or clothing? If you ever play a role playing game on the pc or console or even play the Sims… think about how you make your character different, life like memorable.
7. Make the character stand out with distinctive mannerisms:
Unique mannerisms can help to make your character more memorable.
8. Make your character believable:
Your readers should be able to relate to your characters on some level, so it’s important to make them believable.
9. Steer clear of the biggest character development mistake:
Avoid making your characters too perfect or too flawed.
10. Use a character development template:
To help you build each of these elements, you can download free character development template.
I hope this helps! Leave us a comment if you have questions 🙂
character development, novel writing, fiction writing