>How to write a novel: part 2


Go here to read the first lesson: http://jessicajewettonline.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-to-start-novel-part-1.html

Today we are going to learn about character development. The process of character development is the most important of writing a well-crafted novel. If your characters are poorly written, transparent, predictable, boring, or cliched, then the rest of the novel will fall apart. No amount of planning the most fantastic plot can make up for the poorly written character.

Motivation is the driving force in the character that makes the novel progress through the plot. It’s important because it helps you write a better story when you know the reasons behind your character’s actions. Also, your readers have to believe in your character in order to buy into the character’s storyline. You can demonstrate your character’s motivation through action or through your character’s words. You don’t have to spell out your character’s motivations by writing, “Kim never had her father’s love so she choose bad lovers.” Trust the reader to follow the story by showing motivation through examples. In a scene, show the relationship between her and her father. Then scenes later, show her relationship with the men she meets. Readers will make the connection without you connecting the dots for them.

That brings me to another very important point in writing a novel. Show. Don’t tell. By that I mean, use your words like paint on a canvas. Make the reader see your points without spelling them out in a direct manner.

An important tool in character development is choosing the name of each character. Select character names that makes sense for characters. Never choose a character name simply because you like the sound of it. The name should represent the character and not your taste in names. Clever or exotic names can take the reader out of the story when the name is selected purely for the “cool” factor. The name should make sense for the time period, economic status, social background, etc., of the character’s setting. You wouldn’t name an eighteenth century duchess Shaniqua, for example. History and trends dictate the perception of names. Names that were popular decades ago such as Bertha and Ethel have evolved into older woman’s names. As a result, readers may not buy a young sexy starlet name Bertha. At the same token, readers may cringe at a seventy year old grandmother named Crystal. Invest in a baby name book. Reading through names jars your creativity and gives you access to names you may never have thought of on your own.

Learn the difference between a protagonist and an antagonist!

A protagonist is the main character in a story. In order for your character to work for the reader, the protagonist has to be believable. The main character is a good guy or gal. The reader roots for his or her success. The protagonist usually evolves as a person by the end of the story.

An antagonist in the story is the bad guy or gal. He or she puts obstacles in the protagonists way. Some writers believe the antagonist should be in his or own way likeable. The key is that you make the antagonist believable. The antagonist can also be a nonperson. For example, in Of Mice and Men, Curley is the antagonist but so are society and the cruel, predatory nature of human life (source: SparkNotes). Additional antagonist examples include: To Kill a Mocking Bird – Bob Ewell. Jane Eyre – There are several antagonists, including Aunt Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, and Bertha Mason. Harry Potter – There are also many antagonists, including Draco Malfoy and Voldemort.

In order for your readers to buy into your story, creating believable character’s is important. Through character description, you can bring readers into the fold. Before you start working on your story, take the time to develop character descriptions for all the major characters in your book. Think about your favorite characters. What is it about the characters that draws you in? How did the author develop the protagonist, antagonist, and other characters? When you create character descriptions, you can include some or all of the following information. The character’s…

Physical Characteristics

You can write as much or as little as you want. For some stories you may need light character descriptions and for others more detailed character descriptions. There isn’t a right or wrong approach. All that matters is that you have the necessary information to create wonderful characters.

This is the character development worksheet that I use for all of my main characters.


Character’s Full Name:
Reason or meaning of name:


How old does s/he appear?
Eye Color:
Type of body/build:
Skin tone:
Skin type:
Shape of face:
Predominant feature:
Looks like:




Type of childhood:
First memory:
Most important childhood event that still affects him/her: Why?


Relationship with her:
Relationship with him:


Most at ease when:
Ill at ease when:
How s/he feels about self:
Past failure s/he would be embarrassed to have people know about: Why?
If granted one wish, what would it be? Why?


Greatest source of strength in character’s personality (whether s/he sees it as such or not):
Greatest source of weakness in character’s personality (whether s/he sees it as such or not:
Character’s soft spot: Is this soft spot obvious to others? If not, how does character hide it?
Biggest vulnerability:


Optimist or pessimist: Why?
Introvert or extrovert: Why?
Drives and motivations:
Extremely unskilled at:
Good characteristics:
Character flaws:
Biggest regret:
Minor regrets:
Biggest accomplishment:
Minor accomplishments:
Character’s darkest secret:
Does anyone else know?
If yes, did character tell them?
If no, how did they find out?


One word CHARACTER would use to describe self:
One paragraph description of how CHARACTER would describe self:
What does CHARACTER consider best physical characteristic?
What does CHARACTER consider worst physical characteristic?
Are these realistic assessments? If not, why not?
How CHARACTER thinks others perceive him/her:
What four things would CHARACTER most like to change about self? (#1 most important, #2 second most important, etc.)
If change #1 was made, would character be as happy as s/he thinks?
If not, why not?


How does character relate to others?
How is s/he perceived by…Strangers?
How does character view hero/heroine?
First impression: Why?
What happens to change this perception?
What do family/friends like most about character?
What do family/friends like least about character?


Immediate goals:
Long range goals:
How does character plan to accomplish these goals?
How will other characters be affected?


How character reacts in a crisis:
How character faces problems:
Kinds of problems character usually runs into:
How character reacts to NEW problems:
How character reacts to change:


Favorite clothing: Why?
Least favorite clothing: Why?
Other accessories:
Where does character live?
Where does character want to live?
Spending habits (frugal, spendthrift, etc): Why?
What does s/he do too much of?
Too little of?
Most prized possession: Why?


Person character secretly admires: Why?
Person character was most influenced by: Why?
Most important person in character’s life before story starts: Why?
How does character spend the week before the story starts?

Much help for this lesson was obtained from www.creativewritingsite.com

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