Have you ever read a novel that you thought was completely amazing that had very dull, boring characters? I am willing to bet you haven’t.

Characters in fiction are what pull the reader in and make the story come alive. They give a way for readers to connect to the story and relate to the author through common ground. Because of this, strong, believable characters pack the most punch in literature.

The sad fact is, however, that not all books have such strong believable characters. Sometimes the author either fails to really develop their character, because of lack of effort or lack of understanding, or they underestimate the importance of really vivid personalities in their writing. Countless times as an editor I’ve come across books where the characters were flat and unengaging. The story may be good, but without someone to connect to it becomes quickly uninteresting and easily put to the side.

How you develop strong characters

So how do you develop strong characters to make your book really stand out? The answer is called character development. There are so many methods of character development within fiction one blog would never do them justice. Things like physical descriptions laced throughout the text, strong dialogue tags that reveal bits of personality, and even quirks as action beats that show patterns and habits of the characters are all ways to reveal what your cast is like.

But before any of those things happen comes the most integral part of character development, and that is knowing your character.

Get to know your cast

Sometimes authors jump right into the story, planning out the rise and fall of their plot without putting much thought into their cast, and this works for some folks, but in reality it is difficult to discern your characters’ personalities as you go along. It’s much more beneficial to really know who you’re writing about before you drop your little puppets into their world and make them dance for you.

How then do you learn about your characters? Simple. You interview them. That’s right. In order to get to know your characters well, you need to find out everything about them.

Ask them questions like:

Knowing the character’s past and their desire in the future will greatly improve your ability to write that character into your novel. There are tons of resources available for free online to help you build your cast members so you know them really well, but the best thing to do is to really get in their head and know their entire character arc, even the bits that don’t seemingly affect your plot in anyway, because they do in fact affect the character and your ability to write him or her.

Think outside the box

Another fun practice I like to employ is to write my characters in really out-of-the-box type scenarios that are non-related to my world entirely. Putting them in strange circumstances will help you see how they react to things, their temperament, their coping mechanisms, and even their strengths. The leader in them emerges, or their victimhood is recognized. I’ve even written a few of my characters into erotica scenes, which will never see the light of day, just to know how they would react in extremely emotional or intimate encounters, what they would say, how they would feel. Playing around with new and different settings is fun, especially if you remove your characters from their world and place them into an entirely new world, like taking Harry Potter and dropping him in Legoland.

Whatever route you choose to get to know your characters, it is a must. And it should be done before you even decide what part in the plot they will play. Crafting strong personalities that you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into will make your plot soar to places you’ve never even imagined it could go.

Additional resources:

6 Tips for Writing Great Characters

Your Ultimate Guide to Character Development: 9 Steps to Creating Memorable Heroes

If you have questions, drop them in a comment! Happy writing folks!

M Reineke

~MK Writing Services

What is a good story without good characters? Am I right?

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