Tips for Dynamic Character Development

Characters in a story need more depth than a meer physical description. How do you get a reader vested in your characters so they want to know what happens to them? It’s simple really, give them personality and depth.

For each character in your novel make a list that includes:

Eduard von Grützner's depiction of Falstaff, a...

Eduard von Grützner’s depiction of Falstaff, a literary character well known for his joie de vivre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Physical Description

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Hair Color
  • Eye Color
  • Birthmarks
  • Disabilities
  • Limitations
  • Illnesses


  • Job
  • Education

Past Experiences

  • Parent’s marital status
  • Siblings
  • Any life changing experience – teased in school, death of a close relative or friend, divorce
Rainbow striped toe socks worn with thong sandals

Rainbow striped toe socks worn with thong sandals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Favorite Things

  • Colors
  • Foods
  • Places
  • Clothes

Pet peeves

Real people have depth because of our life experiences. These experiences formed the person each of us has become. By making a list of attributes for each character, you as the author, know where they have come from. This helps you write your characters actions and reactions true to who they are, your dialogue becomes natural, giving them depth. When characters are real to the author they become real to the reader. At this point your reader becomes vested in your story because they want to know what happens to the character.

Be careful as you’re writing to not have verbal diarrhea by giving too much background information away at once about a character. Think back to when you met your best friend for the first time. You only knew their name and what they looked like at first. It wasn’t until later as you got to know your friend that you learned their favorite things, past experiences, and pet peeves that allowed you to predict how your friend would react in different instances. You didn’t know everything there was to know about your friend instantly. This is how you should give the reader information about your characters. Slowly, and in small increments. Some information about your character may never be revealed, but as the author you are aware of it.



Filed under Writing

4 responses to “Tips for Dynamic Character Development

  1. I think it is most important to know the “history” of your characters, even if that never makes it in the book!!! It shapes and affects how you write them. I have a really great character sketch worksheet I made, it is roughly four pages, and while in the beginning I may not have that completely full, by the end I do and then some! These are some great ideas, I am going to see if any are missing from my list **grins**

    • I agree that not everything on your list needs to be in your book. In all actuality, everything on your list shouldn’t be in your book. The author should know a character’s background to be able to write a believable character.

  2. Pingback: It’s in the Details, Baby! | The Wandering Barefoot Editor

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