Writing Mini-Lessons: Ways to Develop a Character


“My characters always take shape first;
they wander around my mind looking for something to do.”

~ S. E. Hinton

A fictional narrative’s introduction and development of the main character is crucial.  Yet, how do you create and flesh out someone who does not exist?  Writers of fiction use a variety of strategies to do just this:  they invent characters—people who seem so real that it is as if they truly exist—and show what these characters are like.

The opening paragraphs and/or pages of your piece are critical to the overall success of your fictional narrative.  This is your opportunity to get a character up and walking around, breathing, living.  This is your chance to convince readers—and yourself—that your character lives, allowing readers to accompany a real person through the events of a story, not view from a distance as a cardboard cutout or paper doll gets picked up and moved from point A to point B.  Build people.  Listen to how they sound.  Observe how they think and behave.  Understand them.

Do not skip this part. Do not imagine that you can come back later and scatter some thoughts or give your character a sense of humor, a past, a daydream, an attitude, a yearning, a personality, after the fact.  Invest right from the start in the details of character:  collect a person.  Then as you develop the chosen problem and move toward the climax, the events of your story and your character’s reactions to them can grow in an organically from the seeds of personality you planned at the beginning of your piece.

As you write your character to life, remember to include all of these ways to develop your character: