Character Development Tips

First of all, you may want to download or print out my Character Sketch Template, as some of the Character Development suggestions that I have work well with it.

Remember when you are doing character development work that although your main concern is the parts of that character that are relevant to the story, that isn’t your only concern. Anything about your character is worth writing down, and you never can tell when the oddest detail from your character sketch will actually show up in the story.

After you finish these, be sure to check out the Character Development Writing Exercises also available on this site.

Here are a few things to consider when developing your character:

  • We are all greatly influenced by our relationship with our parents. How was this character’s relationship with his/her parents? What kind of people were the parents? Did they have any odd beliefs/habits that your character has adopted or is rebelling from? In one story I was working on I had two competing violinists, one from a family that was musically-oriented with musician parents, and one whose father considered it a great disappointment that his son did not play football, as he had. Can you see how these family relationships will affect the attitudes of the two violinists?
  • What are your character’s vices? Unfortunately, we all have them. A vice for your character doesn’t necessarily have to be drinking or swearing–perhaps your character is a compulsive spender. Perhaps your character’s vice is something as innocuous as a habitual over-consumption of sweets; maybe your character is a chocoholic. And perhaps your character has just been diagnosed with diabetes. As you can see, what is considered a vice will depend largely on your character’s situation.
  • What are your character’s pet peeves? Sometimes a person’s pet peeve can give you insight into their personality, and what things are important to them. For example one of my biggest pet peeves is people who say things like “the floor needs swept” or “the dishes need washed”. From this, you can tell that grammar is important to me (and a good thing, too, or I would have a hard time of it as a writer!) If I had a character whose biggest pet peeve was having a pair of slacks without creases, what would that tell you?
  • What is your character’s typical daily schedule like? Unless your story is the sort that will completely disrupt the character’s life and put everything in limbo, you’re going to have to weave your tale around this schedule. It wouldn’t hurt to know what it is.
  • What is your character’s strong point? Every story involves hardship, and your character will need a way to survive this hardship. Usually, this involves the character’s strong personality strength, or plays off of that strength somehow. Scarlett O’Hara survived Gone With the Wind because of her strength of will, her single-minded determination to get what she wanted. What is your character’s strength?
  • What is your character’s middle name? How does he/she feel about it? Some people are embarrassed by their middle names, other people are proud of them, even preferring them to their first names. Does your character routinely use a middle initial?
  • What about a nickname? Does your character want to be called Bill, or William B Holladay the Third? Sometimes you can tell quite a bit about someone by what their friends call them.

If you are ready for serious detail–ready to bring out the big guns and develop a character so real you could run into them at the grocery store–check out

which is THE VERY BEST character development tool I have ever found. I actually abandoned my own character development methods that I have shared here when Holly came out with this. I am one of Holly’s affiliates, and I do receive a commission when this is sold from my link. But I recommend this resource to you because I have bought it and used it–and continue to use it–myself, and I really believe it is the best there is.

And if you’re looking for particular help with bad guys, look no further:

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