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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Character Development: How To Make Your Characters Real.

The other week I read a review for a book by an indie author which really got me thinking about this topic. I'm not going to reveal the identity of the writer because the review wasn't complimentary, but what the reader said happens to be a ubiquitous problem throughout the writing world. And this issue is character development ... or lack of it.

This problem is ubiquitous because characters are the life and soul of the party. They are the skeleton that holds the book together. And without them there will be no story to tell in the first place.

Some writers will argue that the essence of a good story is a cracking plotline. That may be true but only to an extent. What makes a cracking plotline are well defined characters with personalities that clash. It's no good if you have characters in your book who are bland with no obvious distinctions that separates them from everyone else. This might happen in real life with friendships - people have to have some common ground for them to get on. But if it happens in a book then it isn't always a good thing.

The review of this particular book complained of just that. They said that every character was the same sort of person. They ate and drank the same things, spoke with the same words and did the same actions. The only thing that separated them from each other was their name and gender.

To receive a review like that will send chills down any writer's spine. When you're writing you want your characters to come to life and be real people. You don't want to create some flat and boring character that everyone will remember for all the wrong reasons.

Now character development is so much more than the issues mentioned above. True development of any character is all about questions. Why do they do this, why do they do that? And this is so much easier to say than to actually do, believe me.

So this is why I am giving you access to a fabulous book by a fabulous editor (and writer!). My very own editor, Scott Morgan.

You can find him and the book at this link: and let him explain Character Development: From the Inside Out.

And if you struggle with your characters this is the perfect place to get guidance.

I hope you visit his website and find his advice helpful.


  1. Nicely said, LK. I agree 100%.

    I laughed when I read the line about "some writers" who argue that the essence of the book is the plot. My gut response to that was, "well, those writers are wrong!"

    I don't purport to know everything there is about writing. But I do know that a great story comes from great characters. I'm a big fan of organic structure, of plot being emergent from character. Sure, I often have certain scenes and moments that I want to hit when I start on any project, but many times the characters take me in surprising new directions.

    Ultimately, it's characters who stick in our memory. No one ever references an "iconic plot." But iconic characters? There's a plethora of them, from Shakespeare's Iago to Harry Potter.

    Characters are what it's all about! :D

  2. Hi Dan,

    You're so right about this. I think J.K. Rowling created some amazing characters and that plays an important part in her success. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Strangely enough I was having a similar discussion with my son who is studying computer games design at Uni and we agreed that the best remembered and most played games often have very memorable 'characters', whether it is Mario (Mario and Luigi) or Clap Trap (Borderlands 1+2) these characters stick in your mind and make the whole experience 'more real'. The same has to be said of books - if your plot-line is great but your characters are shallow, it will not be memorable enough to be recommended or (dare I say it) earn that prestigious movie deal.

  4. I think my greatest issue with character development is that they all talk the same... heck, I think my narrative sounds the same as the dialogue.

    But I agree that characters are the most important part of the story and how that's what keeps us coming back to spend time with them.
    With me, characters are so pivotal in my work that I refer to them using the name of my protagonists.

  5. Hi Jackie,

    Yes the first point you mention is one of my problems too. I'll have to get that sorted in the 2nd draft. But sometimes you just need to write anything because you can always come back and change it later on. If you don't write anything in the first place then you can never improve it.

    Hi Peter,
    I'm sorry this is so late. Yes, Mario is a great example of a unique character and that's the most important thing to remember. Always make your character stand out in whichever way you can.