Post: 4 tips to help with character development


If you submit a fiction novel manuscript to a publisher and haven’t fully developed your characters, chances are you will receive a rejection notice. Great writers understand that characters in a fiction novel must be relatable so their readers will feel connected and willing to invest their time reading the whole story. 

A fully developed fictional character has an identifiable personality and depth. Such characters also demonstrate motivation that carries them through the story. While each character should be unique, they all must be believable. 

Keep these tips in mind when developing your next fictional characters

Bringing a character to life (so much so that a reader feels disappointed when the book ends because the character will no longer be part of his or her daily life) is a primary goal of fiction writers. The following list includes tips to help with character development:

  • To fully develop a character’s personality, make sure you give him or her physical attributes. While each reader might imagine the character’s appearance a bit differently, the overall “look” should be the same in their minds. 
  • If it jives well with the story line, give your characters a backstory. Letting readers know where they’ve come from helps develop who they are now. 
  • The main characters’ goals and motivation should be apparent. What drives them? What do they hope to achieve by the end of the book?
  • For readers to truly know your characters, they must have distinctive voices in the story. When a character speaks, a reader should be able to “hear” the voice clearly in his or her mind. Does it have an accent? Is it cold and harsh? Is it shy, meek and gentle? 

Many writers like to write a bio for each character before writing their stories. They get to know their characters, then incorporate them into a story line. Others prefer to develop their characters in real time, as a story unfolds. Either way is fine. Why not give both styles a try and determine your preference? 

Static or flat characters

As you sit down to write your next fiction novel, you might create a static or flat character. This is a character who remains unchanging throughout the story. The purpose of a static character is usually to help move the plot forward or to somehow affect the development of a main character. 

A great example of a static character can be found in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In this story, one of the main characters is an attorney and widowed father named Atticus Finch. His actions and behavior keep the plot moving forward, although his personality, motivation and overall disposition never change throughout the book. The best fiction novels have a mix of perpetually developing characters and static characters. Who are some of your favorite fictional characters?