29 August, 2020 By Chelsea Parker

10 Character Development Tips to Make Your Next Novel a Success


When you’re writing fiction, it is key to develop your characters in the best way. Here are some of our biggest character development tips to make your novel top-notch!

10 Character Development Tips

Character development is arguably the most critical aspect of writing fiction. Without well-developed, believable characters, people won’t connect to your story. For some, creating characters is also the most challenging part of writing. Creating characters out of thin air and giving them depth and personality can seem impossible. It’s not, though. Follow these tips, and you’ll be a character development pro in no time.

1. Show, Don’t Tell

This is the number 1 rule of character development. Whenever possible, show who the characters are instead of telling the reader. Let’s say you have a character that’s tall, and you want the reader to know it. Don’t write, “Joe is 6’5” tall.” Instead, you could write, “Joe ducked through the door on his way into the room, but the top of his head still scraped the frame.” By showing instead of telling, you are creating a real character that connects with readers. Also, when you show people through your writing, people are more likely to remember your descriptions.

2. Examine the Character’s Internal and External Conflict

A well-developed character’s internal and external conflicts are on display. Get inside your character’s head and think about his or her secrets and stresses. Show the reader how your character reacts to both.

3. Create a Backstory for Your Characters

The development of characters should begin before you start writing your story. You’ve likely heard of actors and actresses developing backstories for the characters they play. This helps them understand the characters better. You should do the same as a writer. Think of a backstory for each of your characters. What caused them to become the people they are today? What life events shaped them? You might not add all of this into the story, but this will help you get to know your characters. When you know your characters inside and out, it’s easy for you to make them appear authentic on the page.

4. Include Positive and Negative Traits

Human beings are full of good and bad traits. Even the best people have bad traits, just as even the worst have good things about them. When developing a character, you need to include both the good and bad, so they are like real people. Characters that have the right mixture of positive and negative traits jump off the page.

5. Take the Same Care Developing All Characters

You know you need to put lots of time into creating protagonists. However, you need to put the same effort into building your antagonists. Think about all the times you’ve read a book and haven’t understood why the antagonist behaved a certain way. A poorly constructed antagonist weakens the entire plot. Create fully developed protagonists and antagonists, so your story comes to life.

6. Use Dialogue to Build Characters

Dialogue helps you move scenes along and gives people an additional insight into your characters. Think about how your characters would talk. Would they use proper grammar? Do they have specific speaking patterns? Do they tend to say a lot with words, or do they mainly speak through facial expressions? Are they direct and plainspoken, or do they beat around the bush? Use that information when developing characters.

7. Include Ticks or Habits

Ticks or habits should also be part of character development. Think about any ticks or habits your characters would have. Maybe Joe rubs his eyebrow when he’s stressed, and Jen picks the skin around her nails. When you include ticks and habits, you’ll bring the characters to life. They won’t seem like they are just characters on a page. They’ll seem like real people.

8. Show the Character’s Motivation

Showing a character’s motivation helps with the plot and character development. The reader needs to know why the characters do certain things. Why do they react the way they do? Why do they make the decisions they make? This is critical for the development of characters.

9. Have the Characters Change

People aren’t static beings. Their experiences change them. It might be slight, but people constantly change, and your characters should, too. Sometimes, the change is positive. For instance, someone might learn to trust others. Other times, changes are negative. Change is an important part of the human experience, so include it when creating your characters.

10. Develop Various Types of Characters

Far too often, writers make all secondary characters the same. They might all be sarcastic or all be tough. The world isn’t like this, though. People come in different varieties, so keep that in mind when developing characters. When your characters have different personalities, they will seem more human.

Take Your Time and Create Amazing Characters

Character development takes some time. If you put the time in and follow these tips, you can develop interesting and realistic characters. Once you have characters in place, it will be much easier to write a compelling book.