what you should know about character development

Many have defined what character development is all about. Without proper and adequate analytical frameworks and perspectives, and mostly the common grounds of philosophies in life, you may have missed the big picture.

The following is a book discussing and analysing values in life. You may download the book, the Bahasa version, from either one of the following sites:
should you have any comments, queries, questions over issues on character development issues, you may contact the author in Jakarta through this mobile number +62 851 0518 7118.

Perpustakaan Nasional RI: Data Katalog dalam Terbitan (KDT)
Sando Sasako.
Nilai-nilai dalam kehidupan / Sando Sasako. – Ed. 2. —
Jakarta : CV Serabdi Sakti, 2016.
xi, 167 hlm. ; 21 cm
Bibliografi : hlm. 165.
ISBN 978-602-73508-3-0
1. Psikologi. 2. Kehidupan. I. Judul.


This book originally intends to give a brief description on value analyses over human aspects in life, that is ipoleksosbud-hankamnas. The value in political aspects should be described in relation to the legal and law system, domestically. The value in economical aspects has been described in a book titled by “Corporate Financing: Early Warning System Application on Financial Distress Indicators (Measurements)”. The value in national defense and security aspects should be described in relation to the legal and law system, internationally. This book begins with a question of what makes a value and values matter. The value definition analysis is continued with the discussions over its dimension, system, and on cultural contexts in corporations, psychologically and philosophically. Some values are meant and treated sacred in terms of ideology and religions. As it is, it has been exploited and manipulated as a bond to associate the relationship for millenias. The value concepts are then applied to economic goods, to be created, and built upon. On the other hand, the conflicting values can mean one see it entirely different. One see it as a value creation, while the others see it as a value destruction. Relational transgression is named to be an episode of a cycle in the inter-relationships of one human.

Executive Summary

I don’t know you, anymore. It’s one of many understatements of someone to other someone. The transcendental expression reveals everything. It can derive from the five senses (sensed feelings and emotions), perceptions, preferences, tendencies, and so on, just to name a few. There are also other words spoken, language used, gesture, body language, defensive or offensive.
Such annihilation makes the (developing) persons (kids) can loose their in-search-of identity. Some outgoing personalities (ADHD, ADD, or the likes) may still be able to choose between gadgets, television, games, just to compensate, or escape from the ‘pushed’ reality. The opposite is an introvert that dynamic in nature and along a continuum.
Based on a kid’s (user’s) experiences, that one shall assume an identity of one imaginary figure or two. It can be an action figure, Snow White princess, Disney’s cartoon figure, or else (http://bit.ly/1nWrSFq). Some will keep it to himself. While some others are pushing the ilusion to life. Those values are the filtering agents for some to relate and connect with others. It can be the imaginary boss, suborbinates, spouse, buddies, or other LARPing figures.
As people get connected, they get to interdependent one another, directly or not. Some exchanges occur, socially. They comply with each others’ terms of engagements. Some will say it as a cost and benefit. While others, such as Harold Kelley and John Thibaut, will say it as reward and cost, maximise the rewards while minimising the costs in maintaining any relationship.
Some feeds and consumes, while some others produce, vice versa. The products to be consumed in any social exhange or relationships are emotional, social (identity), instrumental, opportunity. The imbalances, I don’t get what I want, I am not well-compensated, will create some degree of dissatisfaction, that leads to mounting complaints and may aggravate and severe the relationships.
Values in Life is what the book about. The discussions and analyses.

Psychology, International Relations, Humanities, Peace and Conflict Studies, Mergers & Acquisitions, Human Rights, Higher Education, Human Resources Management, Strategic Management

strategic management, mergers & acquisitions, human relations, human bonding, value exploitation, value manipulation, conflicting values, violence, terrorism, game theory

Character development

Character development may refer to:
Character arc, the change in characterization of a dynamic character, who changes over the course of a narrative.
Character creation, especially for games
Character advancement, increase in scores and other changes of a game character – for example, in role-playing video games
Moral character, a term used in many educational systems to indicate a strategy for the maturation of individual students.

The 9 Ingredients of Character Development

The 9 Ingredients of Character Development
Chuck Sambuchino | March 30, 2013

I remember back when cameras had something inside them called film that you had to get developed. For those of you college-aged or younger, that’s where a technician would treat the film with some chemicals inside a mysterious darkened room, and an image would magically appear on the special paper. But if the process went awry, you could end up with an underdeveloped image that was dark or fuzzy, or one that was over-exposed and therefore too washed out to see clearly. The key to getting a crisp clear photograph largely depended on how the technician developed the film.

If we want readers to have a vibrant mental image of our characters, we have to spend some time in the dark room. And that is what’s called a metaphor.


I don’t write character-driven novels. Heck, I’m not even sure what the term means. I used to think it was when an author spent hundreds of pages muddling around inside a character’s head just to fill the gaps between a couple paragraphs of action.

I prefer to write plot-driven suspense thrillers. But how does the low-brow thriller writer create good characters? I’m still a novice on the subject so this is by no means a definitive exposition, just 9 ingredients I jotted down to make a clever acrostic: CHARACTER.

(Look here for a list of thriller agents.)

1. Communication style: How does your character talk? Does she favor certain words or phrases that make her distinct and interesting? What about the sound of her voice? Much of our personality comes through our speech, so think about the way your character is going to talk. Her style of communication should be distinctive and unique.

2. History: Where does your character come from? Think out his childhood and adolescence. What events shaped his personality? What did his father do for a living? How about his mother? How many siblings does he have? Was it a loving family or an abusive, dysfunctional one? What events led him to the career choices he made? You may not need to provide all this background to your reader, but it’s good to know as the writer. It helps give him substance in your mind as well.

(How much should an outside edit cost writers?)

3. Appearance: What does she look like? This may be the least important ingredient to make your character a person to the reader, but you should still know it in your own mind. Not every character needs to be drop-dead gorgeous, by the way. Most people aren’t.

4. Relationships: What kind of friends and family does he have? How does he relate to them? Is he very social or reclusive, or somewhere in between? People can be defined by the company they keep, so this can be a good way to define your character.

5. Ambition: Just as this is the central letter of the acrostic, so too this concept is absolutely central to your character and plot. What is her passion in life? What goal is she trying to accomplish through your story? What is her unrecognized, internal need and how will she meet it?

6. Character defect: Everyone has some personality trait that irritates his friends or family. Is he too self-centered? Too competitive? Too lazy? Too compliant? Too demanding of others? Don’t go overboard on this. After all, you want your reader to like the character. But he’ll feel more real if he has some flaw. This is usually connected to his unrecognized need (see Ambition) and often gets resolved through his character arch.

7. Thoughts: What kind of internal dialogue does your character have? How does she think through her problems and dilemmas? Is her internal voice the same as her external? If not, does this create internal conflict for her? In real life we don’t have the benefit of knowing someone’s innermost thoughts, but a novel allows us to do just that, so use it to your advantage.

(Can you query an agent for a short story collection?)

8. Everyman-ness: How relatable is your character? While James Bond is fun to watch on screen, most of us aren’t uber-trained special agent-assassins so it’s a little hard to relate to him on a personal level. On the other hand, Kurt Russell’s character in the movie Breakdown was far more ordinary and relatable, creating a more visceral experience. Be careful not to make your character too elite or he may be too difficult to live vicariously through. And that, after all, is the key to suspense.

9. Restrictions: More than a personality flaw, what physical or mental weakness must your character overcome through her arch? After all, even Superman had Kryptonite. This helps humanize your character, making her more sympathetic and relatable.

The goal is to make your readers feel something for your character. The more they care about them, the more emotion they’ll invest in your story. And maybe that’s the secret.

Maybe every novel is character-driven after all.


Creating believable and compelling characters is essential to much creative writing, from books and short stories, to biographies and poetry. The following exercises will help you create and develop your characters.

Creating Characters

Create a character profile, a list of a character’s basic information: name, age, nationality, religion, place of residence, place of origin, occupation, nicknames, etc. Such information is simple but can have important consequences. Here are prompts you can use to flesh out your character.

Physical Details: Readers want to be able to imagine a character. Consider your characters using all of your senses. What does the character look like? And how does the character sound? Voice can help reveal personality. For example, the dialogue for a high-strung character might be written with long, breathless sentences, the words and phrases running together. Consider other sounds as well: how would your character’s shoes sound as she walks down a hallway? Does your character wheeze or cough or sigh or have a distinctive laugh? Consider the sense of smell as well. Does your character smell of cigarette smoke? Or perhaps lavender soap or a heavy cologne? You can also invoke the sense of touch-silky hair, rough skin.
Physical environment: Where does your character live, work, and play? Does your character fit in to the setting or stand out? The setting can help move the story along and define the character. A character living in Idaho who’s from the Caribbean creates an interesting dynamic.
Other characters: Who does the character associate with? These other characters can serve as points of comparison or contrast. Seeing your character from someone else’s perspective can be revealing. For example, how did the character’s elementary school teachers feel about him or her? Was the character shy? Smart? Well-mannered? Family is especially important because everyone is influenced by family-their values, beliefs, and habits, and the way they interact with one another.
Activities or daily routines: How does your character spend time? The narrative must weave around the character’s schedule, so it’s good to examine it. Extraordinary activities or hobbies can also play a role.
Virtues and vices: What are your character’s strengths and weaknesses? Virtues such as courage or honesty may help the character overcome hardship in the narrative. Likewise, a tendency to drink or swear or shop compulsively may be crucial to the plot. Even if these virtues and vices don’t appear directly in what you’re writing, they help define your character and his or her motivation.
Pet peeves: What annoys your character? What gets under this person’s skin?
Fears: What is your character afraid of? Fears provide information about a character’s psyche as well as events that may have occurred in the past.
Motivation: What does your character want? Understanding what drives your character is crucial to seeing how your story will develop.

Types of Characters

Protagonist: The central character of the story and the person we identify with. A story may have more than one protagonist.
Antagonists: The characters aligned against the central character. They can be internal or external.
Flat characters: Extra characters whose purpose is to highlight what the protagonist is experiencing. They typically don’t change in the course of the work.
Round characters: These characters are complex and three-dimensional; they are included to help the reader understand the scene in a way that advances the action.
Stock characters: Characters who are so obvious and predictable that their roles and personalities are clichés. Don’t rely too heavily on these characters or you work will seem lifeless.

Introducing Characters

Each character trait and detail you develop when you create a character reveals a different part of the character’s appearance or personality. Rather than describing your character directly, use some of the information from the character profile to introduce your character to readers in an engaging way.

Ex. 1 Stating Traits Directly. The man was a dentist, a little pretentious, lived with his family, and liked order.
Ex. 2 Showing Traits through Detail. He began each day by squeezing out a strip of toothpaste exactly the diameter and length of his toothbrush. After 5 minutes of vigorous brushing and a 30-second swish of minty mouthwash, he was ready to descend to the kitchen for breakfast with his family.

The second example is a more effective and interesting way to develop the man’s character. It also lets readers experience his personality themselves and form their own ideas. Readers who are invited to do that usually feel like they know the characters better than readers who are told what to think.

Developing Characters

Your protagonist should change over the course of your story. Asking the following questions can help you determine how your characters develop as the story progresses.

What is this character’s personality at the beginning of the story?
What are the character’s strengths and weaknesses?
How would other characters describe this person’s strengths and weaknesses?
What does the central conflict of the story force this person to do?
How do the forced actions conflict with this person’s original personality?

Remember that some characters change a lot and some only change a little. Most characters stay the same in their essence. For instance, even though a character may learn to conquer a fear, he or she may still be quiet and unassuming at the end of the narrative.

Making Characters Memorable

Readers need to feel something about your characters-curiosity, sympathy, animosity-anything but indifference. The best characters are ordinary people with exceptional qualities who do extraordinary things. If your character is bossy and stubborn, show that. If your character is timid and kind, show that.

Readers should also be able to readily identify characters other than the main ones. It’s helpful to pick two or three adjectives or traits to identify a character with-especially when you have a large cast of characters.

Ex. Draco Malfoy – pointed face, blond hair, sneering. His dialogue is constantly described as “drawling.”
Ex. Rubeus Hagrid – giant, bearded, carries a pink umbrella. Hagrid is also immediately distinguishable by the way he talks: “Blimey, Harry, didn’ yeh ever wonder where yer mom and dad learned it all?”

It’s helpful if the physical traits repeatedly associated with a character are indicative of their personality. In the Harry Potter series, Aunt Petunia has a long neck “useful for peering over the fence to spy on neighbors.” This trait makes her easy to imagine but also reveals something about her personality. Characters can also be personified by an object such as an-ever present guitar or state-of-the-art cell phone.

Characters are essential to a story. Readers occasionally remember a quote or two. They rarely remember plot details, themes, or symbols. But they will readily remember characters; make sure yours are people who will come to life for your readers.

Further Readings
Buckham, Mary and Dianna Love. Break into Fiction. Holbrook: Adams Media, 2009.
Butcher, Jim. Jim’s LiveJournal. Fundamentals–Story Skeletons. Web. Sept 29 2004. June 17 2010.
Knight, Damon. Creating Short Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997.
Miller, Sandra. “Character Development Tips.” SandraMiller.com. 08 Jan. 2007.
Schaefer, Candace and Rick Diamond. The Creative Writer. Addison-Wesley, 1998.

Five Traps and Tips for Character Development
by C.S. Marks

We all have the same goal as fiction writers-we want to transport our readers inside the pages so that they feel like a part of the story. Characters are an extremely important part of making that happen. And characters don’t just transport the readers; they drive the story, or at least mine do. In fact, I’ve learned to listen to them when they argue with me.

So how does one develop effective, memorable characters? To begin with, it might be helpful to examine what distinguishes an effective character from an ineffective one. In my experience, most writers like to read, so you can probably think of characters that are particularly memorable for you and also some that you didn’t feel any connection with. Let’s look at five potential traps that can lead to ineffective characters. You’ll notice they are all connected, because one often leads to another, and some characters are guilty of all five: they’re one dimensional, they’re stereotypical, they’re too perfect, they’re inconsistent, or they’re dull.

Five Traps

One-dimensional characters don’t seem real. They’re flat. You get one-dimensional characters when you don’t devote enough time to character development. Of course, you should bear in mind that not every character deserves or merits equal development. All novels have their main characters and their secondary characters, and you can’t develop each and every one of the secondary characters or your books will be thousands of pages long.
It may be okay for a character to be one-dimensional if that character’s role is not significant. But if it is significant, that character needs to be fleshed out and developed. For example, let’s say there’s a character in your book who is a detective, and he’s married to a woman who is described as a Midwestern housewife. She may be described physically, but if all we know about her past, her personality, and her motivations is that she’s a Midwestern housewife, that’s not very much to go on.
We only know that she can cook a pot roast. That character is going to fall off of the stage of our memories in a hurry, and we’re not going to care what happens to her one way or another.

Stereotypical characters are uninteresting because they’re not unique. It’s important to note here that being stereotypical is not the same thing as being consistent. Your characters should behave in ways that are consistent with how you’ve developed them, but that’s not the same thing as being stereotypical. Imagine all of the rich people in your stories are shallow, greedy, and uncaring.
All of the wealthy women are tall and extravagantly dressed, and they’ve all had plastic surgery. Or imagine you’re writing a fantasy story and all elves are haughty and all dwarfs are gruff, and they hate each other. Those are stereotypes. It’s when a character breaks free of the stereotype that he or she becomes believable and memorable.
Real people rarely act according to stereotypes in every respect. Everybody is unique in some way. You don’t want your readers to think, Didn’t I just see that character in so-and-so’s work, only now he’s got another name and brown hair? You want your characters to be uniquely memorable.

The too-perfect character tends to make your reader’s eyes roll. Sometimes it’s okay to have a character who is perfect in every way, especially if you’re doing a parody. But perfection doesn’t exist in real life, so it shouldn’t usually exist in your writing. It’s hard to empathize with a perfect person, because none of us is perfect. Everyone, no matter how noble, is flawed in some way.
For example, an effective character might be someone who is heroic in almost every way-he’s a good fighter, he’s nice to look at, he rides well and shoots well, and he’s brave and compassionate-but he’s totally indecisive, so if he has to take command in a battle, everyone’s going to die. It’s much easier for readers to relate to someone with a flaw, because they can say, “Yes, that’s just like my buddy Jeff. He’s a great guy, but he can’t make up his mind to save his life.”

There’s also a particular kind of too-perfect character that I refer to as the Mary Sue or Gary Stew character. This kind of character is the writer’s idealized version of himself or herself. Usually this character comes from humble beginnings, achieves impossible goals, ends up saving the galaxy, and then dies in the arms of King Arthur after having become the first female knight of the roundtable. How is anyone going to relate to that except the author? The author is living out his or her fantasies. We all do that to some extent, but Mary Sue is the extreme version of that kind of wish fulfillment, and we need to be careful about it.

Inconsistency in your characters will jar your readers mightily. In fact, it will probably jar the reader out of the story more quickly than almost anything else. You have developed a character in a certain way. Readers are expecting that character to behave in accordance with his or her personality and motivations as you have defined them.
If that character behaves in a way that doesn’t make sense, your readers will notice it every time. Consistency applies to everything from small things, such as a character’s hair color, to big things like the character’s manner of speaking and important choices. If a character has brown hair in chapter 1, she’d better not have red hair in chapter 5.
If a character speaks like a high elf one minute and uses street slang the next, that’s going to take the reader right out of the story. Or if a character slaughters a bunch of kindergartners and then goes on about the evils of child abuse, that’s also inconsistent. The fictional characters that we create need to feel like real people to the reader. If you don’t have a firm picture of them in your mind, they’re going to become shaky on the page.
You should be able to see them and hear them speak and watch them go through their actions. And because you know them that well, they will be consistent, and you won’t fall into that trap.

And then there are dull characters. Of course, some characters are supposed to be dull, but in that case they’re usually foils for more interesting characters or events. If you think you might have a dull character in your book, the first thing you should ask is whether you need that character at all. Why is that character there? What is his or her role in the story?
If you can’t come up with an answer, then that character is just stage dressing. Some stage dressing is allowed, but if you don’t even need the character for stage dressing, maybe its time to do away with that character completely. Another option is to make a dull character come alive by adding some unique traits. Perhaps your drab character has a secret fantasy life or an intriguing hobby, indicating that he or she is much more interesting than appears on the surface. That sort of thing will give a character life.

Let’s assume for a moment to avoid these five traps; your characters are three-dimensional, unique, flawed, consistent, and interesting. Here are five tips that can make them even better.

Five Tips

First, the devil is in the details. There’s a tendency for some writers to throw too much at the reader all at once-to give a full physical description, tell the life story, and reveal the innermost thoughts of a character as soon as he or she is introduced. But that’s not necessarily the best approach. Think about a character you’re introducing as someone the reader is meeting for the first time.
When you meet someone for the first time, you do take in that person’s physical appearance, but only on a fairly superficial level. If I think about the people I met today, I don’t necessarily remember very much about them except that she had dark hair and he wasn’t very tall. I don’t remember every detail about what they were wearing; I didn’t notice.
Unless they were wearing an ostrich costume, in which case I would remember that, and it would certainly be worth including in a story. So we don’t notice everything at once when we meet a new person, but we do usually notice a few details that can give us some idea of that person’s personality and life situation:
Is the character well dressed? Does he bite his nails? Does she have acne scars, heavy makeup, a professional manicure, any nervous mannerisms? Does the character make eye contact?
These are all the kinds of things we might notice during a first meeting. Then, we interact with people and observe them interacting with others, and that’s how we really get to know them. That’s true of characters too. When you first introduce them, you should include a few details, but the rest of their personalities, motivations, and back stories should be revealed gradually through their actions.

Another tip is to base characters on real people. Some writers think this is cheating, but I do it all the time. I take a fantasy character and give him or her the personality of someone I know, and because I know that real person very well, all I have to do is imagine what so-and-so would do in a given situation. It’s a way to flesh out a character very quickly.
It makes it easier to stay consistent too, because you have a fully developed idea of the character’s personality right from the start. I also like to observe human behavior. You can also base characters on real people who you don’t know as well. I like to watch people, and I like to go to places where people congregate and observe them-how they talk, their mannerisms, what they wear, their attitudes and body language. I can incorporate all of that into my stories.

Third, remember that everybody has a history. Where we came from shapes us and molds us. And even if you don’t reveal your characters’ pasts to your readers, you should know about them, at least for your main characters. You should have full biographies of your main characters in your mind so that you understand what drives them.
Why is this important? Because if you don’t understand a character, your readers won’t either. Let’s look at an example of an effective character history. Captain Quint’s backstory in the movie Jaws is great. In one scene, the three heroes, Quint, Chief Brody, and Matt Hooper, are in the cabin of Quint’s fishing boat, and they’re comparing old scars.
Quint has a tattoo that was removed, and Brody innocently asks him about it. In response, Quint tells the other characters a horrific story about many of his friends on the USS Indianapolis being eaten by sharks, and all of a sudden it’s easy to understand this man and why he is the way he is. I can’t imagine that film without that backstory.

Fourth, don’t neglect your secondary characters. Sidekicks can be some of the most likeable and interesting characters in the story. Often, they are the readers’ favorites.

One example of this is the Boba Fett phenomenon. Everyone loves Boba Fett; he’s certainly just a secondary character, but he enriches the Star Wars setting. In the same way, well developed characters can enrich your book. They’re sort of like the supporting instruments in a symphony. I love my secondary characters. They can be a gold mine, and every one serves a purpose.
Some add color or assist in world building, and some are foils for the main characters. Foils are characters who can’t stand your hero or your heroine and do nothing but gripe about them behind their backs. They can be great fun. I make sure I know a lot about my secondary characters even if I don’t end up revealing it all to the reader.

Finally, devote plenty of attention to the villain of the piece, without whom the story would not exist. Often, I hear authors tell me that the villain is their favorite character, the one they love to write about. I know that’s true in my case. Bad guys can be very tough to do well, and it can be even tougher to get readers to empathize with them. Whenever you write a villain, keep in mind that he or she needs to be just as well developed as your main characters.
Instead of being flawed, however-because obviously all villains are flawed-the villain should be imperfectly bad. In other words, the villains should have redeeming characteristics where our heroes have flaws. Gollum in The Lord of the Rings is a great example of this. We empathize with Gollum, and we feel sorry for him sometimes. We have hope for him. We wish that he could be redeemed.
And then we loathe him, and despise him, and wish somebody would just squash him like a bug, because he’s so annoying. Poor Gollum is a character who is definitely ruled by evil most of the time, but he also is in many respects a victim, and so we can empathize with him. He is a great antagonist. These can be among the most difficult of all characters to create but also some of the most satisfying.

There they are: five traps and five tips. Whether you write good characters or poor ones will determine whether your readers stay with you to the end of the journey or get off at the first stop. If the characters fail, the story fails. Hopefully this article will help you avoid that, but if it does happen, pick yourself up, write the next book, develop your characters better the next time, and all will be well.

Information Provided by the Author Learning Center.

Character Development

“You have the opportunity, here and now, to choose. To become something greater and nobler, and more difficult than what you were before. The universe does not offer such chances often, G’kar.”

  • Nameless Narn, Babylon 5 – “Dust to Dust”

Character Development is, by definition, the change in characterization of a Dynamic Character, who changes over the course of a narrative. At its core, it shows a character changing. Most narrative fiction in any media will feature some display of this.

While the definition of “good” and “bad” character development is subjective, it’s generally agreed upon that good character development is believable and rounds out a well-written character. Bad character development leads to the feeling that someone is manipulating the events to their own whims, or even reduces the character’s believability.

There are many sub-tropes that take place due to this trope, some of which include

The Coming-of-Age Story is centered around this trope in the context of growing up.
Darker and Edgier and Lighter and Softer can either deepen a character or round out unnecessary roughness. They can also turn them into a pile of mush or make them an unsympathetic jerk.
Similiarly, despite the negative connotations in the name, Badass Decay can soften a previously harsh character. Or it can ruin an awesome character.
Flanderization is when a character has a quirk or personality trait that slowly becomes their only defining characteristic.
The Heel-Face Turn, Face-Heel Turn and Morality Adjustment tropes rely on character development to make this a believable turn of events.
Hidden Depths has a character develop in unexpected directions. It can also describe a Flat Character turning into a Rounded Character.
Out-of-Character Moment may be a positive or negative example, generally steering a character in new directions without wholesale Character Derailment.
A Character Check can help steer a character who developed too far from their original character back into being themselves, or remind the audience that they still are the same person they used to be no matter how much they’ve changed.

These are hardly the only examples. The Evil Twin of Character Development is Character Derailment. Beware this trope. To see the opposite of this trope, see Static Character. See also Flat Character and Rounded Character. Compare Hidden Depths, where something is revealed that was true all along, but would not have been visible before.

Character Development

English 250 Fiction Unit:
Characterization 1 – Character Development

250 • Fiction • Characterization 1 • Lit Analysis

Character development

A well-developed character is one that has been thoroughly characterised, with many traits shown in the narrative. The better the audience knows the character, the better the character development. Thorough characterisation makes characters well-rounded and complex. This allows for a sense of realism. As an example, according to F.R. Leavis, Leo Tolstoy was the creator of some of the most complex and psychologically believable characters in fiction. In contrast, an underdeveloped character is considered flat or stereotypical.

Character development is very important in character-driven literature, where stories focus not on events, but on individual personalities. Classic examples include War and Peace or David Copperfield. In a tragedy, the central character generally remains fixed with whatever character flaw (hamartia) seals his fate; in a comedy the central characters typically undergo some kind of epiphany (sudden realization) whereupon they adjust their erratic beliefs and practices, and avert a tragic fate. Historically, stories and plays focusing on characters became common as part of the 19th century Romantic movement, and character-driven literature rapidly supplanted more plot-driven literature that typically utilizes easily identifiable archetypes rather than proper character development.

Direct vs. indirect characterisation

There are two ways an author can convey information about a character:

Direct or explicit characterisation:
The author literally tells the audience what a character is like. This may be done via the narrator, another character or by the character him- or herself.

Indirect or implicit characterisation:
The audience must deduce for themselves what the character is like through the character’s thoughts, actions, speech (choice of words, way of talking), looks and interaction with other characters, including other characters’ reactions to that particular person.

Characterisation in Drama

In performance an actor has less time to characterise and so can risk the character coming across as underdeveloped. The great realists of dramaturgy have relied heavily on implicit characterisation which occupy the main body of their character driven plays. Examples of these playwrights are Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg and Anton Chekhov. Such psychological epics as The Seagull indirectly characterise the protagonists so that the audience is drawn into their inner turmoils as they are slowly revealed over the 3 hours of time spent with the characters. The actors taking on these roles must also characterise over a long period of time, to the point that there seems to be no direct statement of who the character is at any point, this realism in acting requires the actor to characterise from their own persona as a starting point. The audience therefore does not recognize a realistic characterisation immediately.

However the playwright and actor also have the choice of direct characterisation in a similar vein to the writer in literature. The presentation of a character for a sociological discussion only has to be as real as the discussion requires. In this way a character can be used as an iconic reference by a playwright to suggest location, an epoch in history, or even draw in a political debate. The inclusion of a stock character, or in literary terms an archetypal character, by a playwright can risk drawing overly simplistic pictures of people and smack of stereotyping however the degree of success in direct characterisation in order to swiftly get to the action varies from play to play and often according to the use the character is put to. In explicitly characterising a certain character the actor makes a similar gamble. The choice of what aspects of a character are demonstrated by the actor to directly characterise is a political choice and makes a statement as to the ethics and agenda of the actor and the play as a whole. Examples of direct characterisation are found in mime especially, and in Epic theater, yet also in the work of Steven Berkoff, The Wooster Group, and Complicite.

Both implicit and explicit characterisation in drama can result in a problematic, politically unstable character, even a stereotype. And conversely both direct and indirect characterisation can make complex and unique characters depending on the choices made by those doing the characterising.

[Adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characterization ]

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 on the way to the grocery store–check out

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

Character Development Exercise

It seems the number one way you learn more about your characters is simply by writing about them. Unfortunately, when this process occurs while you’re writing your story, it can show. Awkward, uneven character development in your completed piece can be the result. One way to get around this is to write scenes with your characters that are not part of your story, but which nonetheless help you learn about them.

Here are a few writing exercises that you can do to help you learn more about your characters. These are also good for helping you past writer’s block, or for use as prompts in timed writing exercises. Each of these exercises is fairly general; you should use the specific traits of your character and story to fill them in and write a scene from them. Not all of these exercises are appropriate for all characters; for example the lead in a fantasy novel will probably not be suitable for the exercise about building a website. If I can find any of the sheets where I did these, or if anyone would like to submit theirs to be posted, I will put up some examples.

Your main character has invited you to lunch. Where does he/she meet you? What is ordered? What do you talk about?
(This exercise helps you to learn more about your character through food preference–which can actually be useful in your story–and through casual conversation)

Your protagonist and antagonist are each required to write a letter of introduction for your reader, describing themselves, their goals and motivations, and you.
(This exercise gives you valuable insight into the way your characters think about and describe themselves)

It’s a Sunday afternoon and your character’s responsibilities are complete. What does he/she do to relax for the rest of the day?
(This exercise gives you a deeper knowledge of your character through hobbies/leisure time activities.)

Your protagonist and antagonist each write a letter to a friend or family member (or you!) about the other.
(This exercise helps you gain insight into how your characters view their opposition)

Your two main characters have to change a flat tire, in the rain.
(This exercise helps you to learn more about your characters through handling adversity–which can be very telling!)

Your main character invites you to his/her place for dinner. What sort of home does he/she have? How is it furnished? Any family, roommates, pets? What is served?
(This exercise gives you insight via detailed description of your character’s home environment– which can be useful in your story–family, food preference, and any other details you work into it.)

Your main character decides to put up a personal homepage. How does he/she go about it? Does he/she have the skills to start building one, or will assistance be necessary? What sort of information will he/she want on it?
(This exercise helps give you a feel for how comfortable your character is with the technology that is becoming more prevalent in our lives. It also gives you insight into how your character sees themselves, through how they would like a total stranger to perceive them.)

Do you have a suggestion for a character development writing exercise? Email me! (Your email address will not be used for any other purpose or provided to any third parties).