5. Getting Your Characters to Tell Their Story in Your Novel

The Novel Formula - A Novel Writing Method: Step Five

Character Viewpoints

This is a really fun step, in which you get inside the skin of your characters, discover if there are any impossibilities in your plot and give the story a level of depth that you just couldn't get by coming at it from your omnipotent author viewpoint.

What you're going to do, is write a synopsis of the story from the point of view of each of the major characters - taking about a page for each. You should let you imagination loose at this point, so don't worry too much if you run over, just don't burn out before you've done them all!

If your story is primarily told from the point of view of the lead character, you will have to be really strict about their synopsis - if you're getting to the point where you have five pages and you're still in the early stages - it's getting out of hand.

Do your best to try to really get into each individual character; speaking as they would speak, noticing what they would notice and even using metaphors that they would. Does your character use a lot of long words or a lot of slang? Do they immediately scope out the decor of a room, the people in it, or the escape routes? Do they use a lot of sporting metaphors or sea ones, or sensory ones?

Personally, I like to imagine the character sitting on a stool in the middle of a room, being asked to explain what happened - but you don't have to do it that way.

Before you write each character story synopsis, make sure you check over the notes you already have to remind yourself of what you've already learned about your character. This will help you keep it consistent and also inspire the synopsis.

The character story synopsis should not tell the entire history of the character, starting when they were a child (unless that's relevant), but should start at the first relevant point to the story. This may, however, be before the story begins for the lead.

Think about what the character is doing in-between encounters with other characters and appearances in the story. You don't have to know every single detail, but they should never vanish from existence.

By doing this sort of synopsis, not only will you get to know your characters better, but you will make them seem much more real, as it forces you to think about what they're doing when they're not in your main narrative. This starts to give them their own lives, and can affect how they behave when they are in the main narrative.

For example, if you haven't thought about what a character has been doing immediately before your lead encounters them, they may tend to be in a neutral mood, and just hanging around doing nothing, or doing something vague. Once you've walked through the story in their shoes though, you might know that they've just had an argument with their sister, or just received a long awaited letter, or simply just stubbed their toe. How will this affect how they receive your lead?

In this way you can add more interesting complications and conflict, adding depth and realism.

So go ahead and get started on your character story synopses.

Click here for the next step in the Novel Formula - extending your synopsis.


  1. LOVE this idea. I'm kind of on my first and a half draft at the mo. My first draft was about 60,000 words but unfinished and I was about 50% of the way through. I could see how it was going to end but not how I was going to get there and then I realised that I had written FAR too many different stories into one.

    I went back and started to redraft before I'd even finished the first. I wrote out a basic but thorough plan and got rid of three characters who, while I loved them, just did nothing at all. This meant that I could focus on my main characters and their journey in more detail.

    I have used loads of my first draft but just got rid of the chaff.

    I find it confusing when there are too many notes and ideas wafting around which is what I tend to end up with. I'm hoping all the extra characters who I kind of love will come visiting again in the future, perhaps in another novel.

    I read this article about interviewing your characters and just had to try it and wow. So. Much. Fun.

    I found out how the character is actually really feeling during the events and what is driving them. It has helped me to pull the plot together and ensure that there is a clear and relatable motivation always burning in the background. It only needs to be short but finding out what your characters think is vital! I mean, they're the ones who are going have to live this story for the rest of their lives!


    1. Thank you so much for your comment, and really glad it's been helpful. I agreem interviewing characters is useful for getting detail about how they feel about what's going on in a scene, rather than just being a plot puppet!
      Also glad to hear you're not afraid to cut out characters that aren't pulling their weight - being able to cut ruthlessly is one of the bext skills an author can have in my opinion.