Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 22, 2012

Ten Character Development Tips

Good character development is believable and rounds out a well-written character. Bad character development leads to the feeling that someone is manipulating the events on a whim and can reduce the character’s believability.

Below are some things that you may want to consider adding to your characters:

Character Tics: Facial expressions and physical gestures as idioms. Things like Spock’s “Fascinating” eyebrow-raise, the wide eyes of surprise, the “these people are crazy” eye-roll, the furrowed brow of anger, the other kind of furrowed brow of concentration, and the lip-curl of disgust.

Food Fetish: A character is partly defined by a Trademark Favorite Food that he or she craves and eats, all the time.

The writer needs to be aware that when a character exhibits an obsession for food that corresponds with a stereotype for his race or culture, readers may become so irritated that it can only be used in parody, satire, homage or pastiche.

Verbal Tic: It can be a word, sound, or phrase that shows up in various places in a character’s dialogue.

Catch Phrase: It should be always the same and be repeated multiple times.

Phobia: Fear of blood, snakes, spiders, heights, germs, needles, etc.

Collector: Can you give a character something to collect? The possibilities are almost endless: Normal things like movies, stamps, baby animals figurines, bottle caps, books, action figures, Legos, or it could be something bizarre maybe a collection of various types of toenails.

Angst: Divorce, death of a parent or sibling, bereavement, illness, poverty, parental favoritism, losing a boyfriend or girlfriend, jealousy, embarrassment, etc.

Back Story: A good writer has a strong sense of each character’s Back Story, as it gives the character or characters texture and shadings and keeps them from being two-dimensional. It provides an excellent source to give the reader new information which had been withheld to create suspense. You can reveal bits and pieces as the story goes along as to why your character resents another character or why he suffers from bad dreams, etc. It should always be relevant to the plot.

In the Shadows: Someone’s face, or whole body, is kept in shadows until just the right moment, before they are revealed to the reader.

The Big Entrance: Giving a character a big entrance will grab your readers attention and could be use to help define them. But it needs to be over-the-top and cool, ensuring that every character’s eyes are on that entrance. It has to be loud, it has to be overly dramatic and did I say cool?

This is just the tip of the iceburg, but I thought it would give you something to think about.
Talk tomorrow,



  1. I’m gradually filling a binder with all the wonderful stuff you post, Kathy 🙂 Thank you!


  2. Terrific post. This should help all of us as writers. Thanks.


  3. I too have a folder for your blog posts. Good stuff!


  4. Very useful tips, Kathy. You always keep me thinking! 🙂

    ~Eileen Balesteri


  5. Another awesome post, Kathy. Do you mind if I occasionally repost your best stuff on my blog–giving you full credit and links, of course?


    • Rebecca,

      Sure, would love to have you share and send people my way. Glad you are a frequent visitor.



  6. I found this so useful, I posted the link on my blog. Thanks again for this.


  7. You always post such wonderful information and pointers, Kathy. Thank you.


  8. Just found this in my inbox. Glad I kept it–on the class wiki it goes!


  9. Verbal Tic: It can be a word, sound, or phrase that shows up in various places in a character’s dialogue. I really like this technique. I have a character in one of my stories that has a lisp. Man is it hard to write that into dialogue.


  10. Hi Kathy, can I link back to this post please?


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