Character development: it’s all in the details (Day two of 31DBBB)

Last weekend I worked a little harder at committing to a basic story line for my novel. I wanted something not quite firm – pliable and workable so I could see what the characters could do to shape the story but yet, something to provide me with a jumping off point.

With my plot loosely outlined, I have determined two characters thus far that need developing. Character development I understand is key to a successful novel. People don’t necessarily fall in love with your story (although that is definitely important as well); they fall in love with rich, deep, and dynamic characters. It’s imperative that before I start to craft my novel, I master my characters. I want to know them, I want to love or hate them, admire or disrespect them. I must be able to imagine them in every aspect and facet. I want to feel like they are a part of my actual life. I need to know their darkest secrets, their deepest fears, and their greatest dreams. It’s all in the details:

  • Appearance: physical appearance such as height, weight, hair, ethnicity etc. Does anything about their appearance reveal something about their personality? Back story?
  • Manner: what are they like in their behavior, are they rude, polite, mentally stable? What are their mannerisms that make them unique?
  • History: where did they come from? How did they get to where they are now? What kind of childhood did they have and who and what are some of the major influences in their lives? More possible back story.
  • Education/Financials: are they educated? To what level? In what field? What do they do for work and what is their financial situation? This may require research.
  • Dreams and Goals: what are their dreams and goals in life? What do they want to achieve? What’s their bucket list? Also, what kinds of dreams do they have when they sleep? Are they haunted by nightmares, maybe a recurring dream? Are they symbolic of some deep seeded subconscious issue?
  • Friends and Family: who are their friends and family? What kinds of people are they and what kinds of relationships do they have? How do these play out? Are there tensions or conflicts? Where do my characters fit within the family dynamic? Does this help or hurt them? This work could lead to other sub characters/stories.
  • Motivation: what are the prime motivations? What drives their very being? Are they optimists, pessimists, or realists?
  • Strengths/Weaknesses: what are their highs and lows? Are these physical or mental? Will they help them or hold them back?
  • Values and Beliefs: what are their values and beliefs deep down – about life, living, people, and everything in between? These values and beliefs drive their behavior so discover what’s really going on inside the heart, soul, and mind.

These are just a few of the many character aspects I’ll start to explore over the coming weeks and months. What character development exercises have you done that have been instrumental in creating magnificent characters?



  1. If I were a fiction writer, I’d be coming back to this list again and again.. and maybe there’s much here for me to look at as a writer of memories as well. It might help me focus on what details about myself as well as the individuals I interact with, need to be shared to make the story more compelling for readers.

    • I absolutely agree in the value of doing this type of exercise regardless if you are writing fiction or memoirs. I think it would not only help you identify what aspects of yourself you want to highlight, I think it would help you bring more depth to yourself as a character within the novel. When writing about yourself and your own life, I would think it might be “easy” to forget that people don’t know the important back stories. I think it’d be very helpful!

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