Developing Realistic, Memorable Characters

The character tab in The Novel Factory software

Good characters are the holy grail of compelling novel writing. Some action packed novels may be able to get away with cut out characters, but having smart, funny characters that the reader can empathise with and identify with, will lift the novel to the next level.

Our novel writing software takes you through a step by step process of developing a many layered character, and we'll run through the basics here.

Character Development Step One - the basic introduction

We start with what you could call the gameshow introduction. A simple, single sentence which can be used to describe the character, usually not using there name. For example:

A perfectionist accountant from London, with a love of roller blading.

Then we break down each section of the introductory sentence, to delve into each part in more depth and found out: in what way this perfectionism manifests, what sort of accountant they are, whether they like their job, and how high up they are, whereabouts in London they live, have they always lived there, do they like living there, how much to they love rollerblading, do they do it every day, where do they do it, how long have the been doing it. This will give you a nice starting point.

Basic character interface in the Novel Factory

Character Development Step Two - the statistics

If you're going to visualise your character, you need to know exactly what they look like - and having all of this noted down somewhere is a good idea to avoid rookie mistakes like changing the protagonists eye colour halfway through a paragraph. Note down age, hair type, eye colour, distinguishing features, height, weight etc. You should also think about and make a note of, their motivation and a summary of their role in the story. Now is a great time to try to hunt for some pictures to represent your character as well. Photos can provide a lot of inspiration.

Questionnaire supplied in the Novel Factory

Character Development Step Three - the questionnaire

Not all authors like the questionnaire, but I think that's because it's sometimes been presented as the be all and end all ofworking out a character. I certainly don't think that, which is why it's step three, but I do think it's useful, and using a questionnaire can help prompt inspiration about things you might not logically get to. Our writing software includes a detailed questionnaire that covers everything from what's in their fridge to how they treat people better than them

Character Development Step Four - History

You probably won't want to do full histories for every single character in your story, but I find it extremely useful to write the histories of all my main characters, all the way from being a baby. It means you have to think about their upbringing and parents and it helps you really get a rounded view of a person.

To take advantage of our novel writing software to guide you through this process and keep all your notes safe and organised, download a free trial of the Novel Factory.