Five Qualities Every Character In Your Novel Needs To Possess

Over the next few blog posts, I want to emphasize character development.

A well-rounded character consists of voice, beliefs and values, physical traits, back-story, and; goals and motivations.

For this post, I am going to skim over some important factors to consider building your character.

To create a well-rounded character, it can at times become a self-indulgent exercise. I have spent inordinate amounts of time determining small details that will never show up in the story. It’s not that these small details don’t matter but beware because it can delay the writing process.

Below are Five Qualities Characters Need to Possess in your Novel to make them a rememberable character.

 1. Role

The characters detail depends on how important the figure is to the story. Sometimes when you’re drafting you don’t necessarily know whether a character you need for this scene will become more important later. That’s okay. Just don’t pressure yourself to make every figure fully fledged from the get-go. You might find that narrative tasks can be reassigned to a more essential character and this shopkeeper or random coworker can be eliminated.

What is the role of the character?

2. Relationship to the protagonist

How will your character interact with the protagonist and will it be a positive or negative relationship?

Is the relationship hierarchical, equitable/intimate, or a mix?

That will very much set the tone for how the character interacts, and what methods he or she uses to negotiate conflict with your hero.

3. Goals and Motivations

Your protagonist will have goals, but what about the other characters? If all they ever do is react to the hero, they will feel like a cardboard cut out. Every character has to be pursuing some goal of their own, even the tertiary characters.

You’ll have a very different scene when a store clerk’s goal is to win Employee of the Month, versus take a smoke break ASAP, versus share their faith with every customer.  Interacting with any of these three clerks could be useful for pacing, dropping in clues, or revealing something about your protagonist.

Primary and secondary characters especially need things to do and places to be when they aren’t interacting with your hero. They need relationships, worries, plans of their own. This not only makes them more real but also opens up great possibilities for plot complications. Obviously, you won’t dramatize all these side-stories, but they should leave traces that appear in details your sprinkle in.

4. Relationship To Conflict

Will your character act or withdraw when trouble comes? In other words, there are many ways your character can respond to conflict and how they do will show a slice of their personality.

When characters behave in places of conflict it shows how they function to your plot if it is to help or hinder the protagonist goals on the micro and macro level.

5. One key distinctive

Even tertiary characters need at least one thing about them that makes them distinct from others in the story. It could be a physical trait, like their stature, physique, or way of carrying themselves. It could be their manner of speaking in terms of volume, word choices, dialect, or it could be some action that sets them apart.

The key is to choose a variety of traits across your entire cast. It shouldn’t be all physical, all dialect, or all superhero skills that differentiate your characters. A really solid cast will have numerous types of roles and kinds of people that add to the setting and to the plot.

Notice there are some things you do not need to know about every character but you might need some further detail for some of the characters, but not all.

Do you struggle more with overdoing characterisation, or not having quite enough? 

Post your questions, comments or/ and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view, questions or an answer, please invite them or share this post with them.

#DouglasWTSmith #characterdevelopment


Character Qualities

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