Tropes are one of the most important ingredients in storytelling. There are tropes like “enemies to lovers” or “the chosen one” that you’ll see in all forms of media from TV to movies to books. They’re comforting plot lines that readers relate and respond to because they understand what they mean. Characters can have tropes too—often referred to as archetypes—and these are the kinds of characters you’ll see over and over again in your favorite pieces of fiction. These include things like the wizened sage who offers up advice to the hero or the rebellious anarchist whose only goal is to bring down the establishment (often known as The Man.)
Characters are almost inarguably the most vital part of your story. Sure, you can have a great plot and strong world-building, but if you don’t make your reader care about your characters, then chances are the rest of that stuff will fall flat. Characters are the thing that turn an okay read into a book your readers won’t be able to put down. So how do you create a character that makes them come back for more? By ensuring they have good character development, of course. But what does that mean? So glad you asked. In this article, we’ll go over what character development is, how to develop a character, and the things you can do to ensure you’ve created got the most memorable character possible.
We tend to give a lot of thought to our characters when we’re writing. Their likes and dislikes. Their appearance and disposition. Hopefully their wants, goals, motivations, flaws and all the things that make them feel like real people. But how much thought do you give to actually introducing them to your readers? A strong introduction to a character can help make or break that character and the way your reader perceives them. So what’s in an introduction, anyway?
Do your main characters tend to steal the show in your novels? Don’t worry, that’s not a trick question. They should be doing that. In fact, you should be putting lots of thought and development into protagonists because that’s who the story is about. But how much thought have you given to your tertiary characters? They can be important too.If you want to breathe life into your stories, it's time to give tertiary characters a little love. These small but mighty players can add depth, complexity, and a fresh perspective to your plot. They give you the chance to offer comic relief, a dash of wisdom, and just some good old fashioned friendship.
Sidekick characters. The unsung hero of so many stories. They're the Robin to your Batman, the Luigi to your Mario, the Samwise Gamgee to your Frodo Baggins. They're the ones who are always there to lend a helping hand, crack a joke, or provide some much-needed emotional relief. And let's be real, sometimes they don’t go unsung. Sometimes they're more interesting and lovable than the main characters themselves and end up stealing the show.
Secrets. They’re the lifeblood of any relationship. If you aren’t keeping at least a few secrets from your friends and loved ones, are you really living? Okay, maybe not. Secrets in real life can be a little tricky—we all have them—but they have a way of blowing up in our faces, depending on how big they are. Your characters are really no different. Only when you’re keeping secrets in fiction, you can make them even darker and deeper than any you might ever have in real life. (Hopefully, I don’t really know your life, so maybe not.) Secrets might not be something you’ve specifically thought about when you’re drafting a story. They’re the kind of thing that often happen organically, but you can actually make use of character secrets to make your stories better. Adding them with intention can help increase tension, make twists hit that much harder, and keep your reader engaged.
There are many schools of thought on writing character descriptions in your novels. Some people are of the “blank slate” variety offering up almost no physical descriptions and letting the reader decide. While others are more into the “give every detail” until their character might as well be a drawing on the page. Most writers fall somewhere in between that spectrum.
The Chosen One. It’s a trope that many people love to hate despite its pervasiveness across popular culture. If you’re unfamiliar with the Chosen One, it’s a popular trope or narrative device used across books, TV shows, and movies where a character is destined to fulfill a certain role or mission, often because they have unique abilities or traits. These traits are frequently tied to magic, meaning you’ll see this trope a lot in fantasy and other types of speculative fiction, especially those with a young adult audience.
That’s great—our fiction should reflect the world as it is and that means including people of various ethnic backgrounds and skin tones. But the history of writing about people of color is kind of… awful and it’s important to remember that you can’t just throw in a BIPOC character without giving some serious thought to how you represent and describe that character.
Villains are the characters we love to hate. Or sometimes our love for the villain is equally strong as it is for the protagonist. Why? Because it can be fun to root for the bad guy (speaking in general terms here–not just guys can be bad, obviously). But readers only root for the villain if you’ve given them a reason to do so. A villain needs depth and development, just like any of your more heroic characters. They need motivation and faults and weaknesses to make them full and complete characters.
Giving your characters a believable and compelling backstory is one of the best ways to bring them to life on the page. Making it nice and traumatic also doesn’t hurt.
Characters are the most important part of any story. They are the beating heart and the blood that flows through your novel’s veins. Yes, your plot and world and story structure are also important, but most people will fall in love with a book because they love the characters.
Character motivation is essential in creating characters your readers will care about. Learn about the types of motivation with Dabble!
Need original character questions to inspire your work in progress? Dig deep with these one-of-a-kind character interview questions.
It isn't easy to write a good villain, at least not without the right ingredients. Let Dabble give you the perfect recipe for a villain!
There are a lot of pieces of writing advice you can ignore, but here’s one you shouldn’t: you need to include character goals in your story.
Why does character motivation matter? Find out why a thrilling plot is not enough and how to design motivation that resonates with readers.
Here are sixty-five character development questions, plus tips on how and when to interview your characters. Get inspired and get unstuck!
Need character ideas for your next story? Find a ton of original ideas and brainstorming questions right here!
A character flaw is a fault, limitation, or weakness that can be internal or external factors that affect your character and their life.
The Seducer/Seductress archetype can help you craft unforgettable villains and surprisingly sympathetic anti-heroes. Learn how.
The Orphan archetype makes for both inspiring heroes and unsettlingly sympathetic villains. Learn how to use this archetype in your story.
Explore the fundamentals of the Outlaw Archetype and how they serve your story. Explore famous examples of Outlaws in popular media.
The Common Person or Everyman is a powerful archetype that can instantly relate to your readers. Learn how to use it in your writing!
The caregiver archetype is more than a saint. Learn how to craft a fascinating, flawed, and deep-souled caregiver for your story.
The Creator Archetype breathes life into their art, often to an obsessive level. Learn all about using this archetype in your writing!
The Ruler archetype is one of the most recognizable and is about stability and maintaining order through control and power.
Get to know the Innocent archetype, from Buddy the Elf to Andy Dwyer. Learn how to write this lovable (and sometimes chaotic) character.
The Sage archetype is an important one in all storytelling—one that can either help or hinder the protagonist's journey in your book.
Explorer Archetypes long for adventure and seek out new places, ideas, and experiences to live a thrilling, exciting, and fulfilling life.
What is the Jester archetype? Find out what you need to know to give your funniest character true purpose and depth.
Lover archetypes embrace the love they hold for friends, family, their gods, or simply the world around them.
The Magician archetype is one of the most popular archetypes in writing. In this blog, we explain everything you need to know about Magicians!
What is the hero archetype? From epic heroes to anti-heroes, here's everything you need to know about crafting a compelling hero.
A New York City story coach shares her best tips on how to create compelling characters. She walks through each step in the process.
Which of the four character arc types is right for your story? And what is a character arc?
Character archetypes can help you write complex, three-dimensional characters. Learn more about them, including 14 common types, with Dabble.
One of the primary reasons people don’t finish a book is because the characters didn’t feel real to them. They couldn’t relate to them. They felt like caricatures or templates, rather than breathing, thinking, living beings on the page.
We spend a lot of time thinking about our characters—what they look like, how they talk, their backstory, and their emotional wounds. But one thing you might not have given as much thought to is how they earn a living every day.It’s just a fact of life that most of us have a job of some kind to bring home the bacon (or perhaps tempeh, if you’re a vegetarian), no matter the setting or time period we live in. A roving knight works as a mercenary for a corrupt king. A billionaire manages properties while he’s busy whisking his lover all over the world. Or a ragged survivor of a dystopian nightmare works as the leader of a rebellion (some jobs definitely pay better than others). In some cases, the job is the story. Think about a detective or an office romance. Without the work, there’s no story.
When you start to draft or plot a new novel, you probably have a vague idea of who your characters are or will be. A lot of people start with the basics first, such as age, sex, gender, and hair, eye, and skin color. And that is a very good place to start. But to create memorable characters that leap off the page, you’re going to need a little more. Probably a lot more, in fact.
Remember the last book you read where you couldn’t stop thinking about the characters? They felt real and three-dimensional, with fully developed personalities, and their actions made sense. Or if they didn’t, then you knew why they didn’t. Chances are you were reading a character-driven story.
Character fears drive conflicts, motivate character behaviors, connect with readers, and make a character arc feel more victorious and satisfying. Here's how to harness the power of fear to write a captivating story.
We've got you covered with the best character template ever to help bring your story's characters to life!
Not all protagonists are heroes. In fact, some of the best stories feature villains as the main character. But writing a villain protagonist isn't easy, so let's break down exactly what you need to know.
Readers craze three-dimensional, deep, complex characters, but writing them can be daunting. In this article, we break down how to write complex characters in your novel.
So you want to write a story with two protagonists. Cool. I mean, if you want to be an overachiever like that, then I’m here to help you. Maybe it’s not really overachieving though and is actually really critical to your story. I buy that.There are definitely certain stories that are ideal for dual protagonists. Romance would be a good example, when you have two love interests and are both exploring the coming together and coming apart and falling in love from two points of view.Of course, you don’t have to be writing a romance to have two protagonists. You might be writing a mystery or a fantasy novel where two main characters exist on alternate timelines and their destinies verge at some point. Or maybe they’re just in two different places and have a bone to pick with one another.
Characters are the meat of any story. They’re the beating heart and the blood that flows through your novel. You can have the most amazing plot, setting, worldbuilding, and prose, but what sticks with most readers are memorable characters. Fleshy characters. Ones with mass and density and layers and tissue.
Being told your character is "one-dimensional" can feel like a slap to the face. But what does that even mean? And is there a place for one-dimensional characters in books? We discuss all that and more in this article.
When you make up fictional people, you're going to become an expert on them. You'll know them more than you know some of your friends. But what do you absolutely need to know about them before you start writing? Let's break it down.
Looking for some good villain motivations to drive your evil-doer's dastardly deeds? Find inspiration here... as well as some great tips for creating a compellingly wicked Why.
Perfect characters are boring. Every character needs a flaw or twelve, not just because it’s more realistic, but because they help deepen your story. Character flaws make your characters more interesting and give you leverage to create conflict, plot, goals, and motivations. If your characters are perfect and have nothing to strive for or nothing they wish to attain, then your story is going to feel a little (or very) flat. Flaws can include a wide range of traits, from something as simple as talking too loudly to as complex and serious as being wildly arrogant. There are degrees of flaws where some will have little to no impact on your story and some will have a significant impact.
Perfect characters are boring. Readers want characters who struggle through, endure, and overcome the obstacles you throw at them. To do that, we need to give them weaknesses. In this article, we discuss what character weaknesses are and how you can integrate them into your writing.
Want to create a disturbingly compelling negative character arc? The secret is to make your character's downfall feel plausible—even inevitable. Here's how.
Secondary characters make your fictional world complete and give your protagonist something to care about. But how do you develop these compelling side players without overshadowing your main character? Here's what you need to know.
A character sketch is a great tool to flesh out a character and keep your story engaging. In this article, we cover how to write a character sketch to make better characters.
Supporting characters often become the best loved, least forgettable players in a novel. But how do you create supporting characters that are interesting enough to be adored without overshadowing the protagonist? Here's what you need to know.
Oh hey, look at this! It's a free, downloadable character arc template to help you craft fascinating journeys for your characters. Plus, learn what it takes to create an arc-worthy character and how to weave their arc into your plot.
Antagonists are some of the most important types of characters in stories, but also some of the most difficult to write. Let's breakdown what makes a good antagonist.
Want to learn how to write a depressed character realistically and respectfully? Hoping to avoid bad clichés and harmful stereotypes? We can help.
Showing how characters fall in love can be one of the most challenging things to write. It’s so easy to slide into something that feels forced or unnatural, because the pacing requires a delicate hand and impeccable timing to make it just so.
When used properly, a trope instantly hooks your reader and gives them a sense of familiarity in your unique story. In this article, we look at how to use motivation tropes, make them your own, and give you more than 50 examples of tropes to kick your characters into gear.
Not all antagonists are heartless villains. Some of the most memorable characters are the ones that do bad things but have a motivation we can understand. Learn how to write a sympathetic antagonist with this blog!
Need a few character motivation examples to get those wheels turning? Or even to just get a better grip on what character motivation is? You can find 'em right here.
Creating character arcs isn't for the faint of heart. You've got to be ruthless. You've got to be strategic. And it also helps to read this step-by-step guide.
Writing abused characters requires humility, empathy, and a lot of research. Here’s how to portray these experiences authentically and with care.
Snag this free, downloadable character development worksheet, designed to help you craft compelling characters and write an unputdownable story.
Great characters have great character arcs, but those can be tough to come up with! In this article, we cover fifteen character arc ideas you can use to craft incredible stories.
Maybe you've heard of foil characters before, but what exactly do these types of characters do? How can you make a good one? Don't worry, we cover everything you need to know about foil characters in this article.
Here's everything you wanted to know about all the types of characters in fiction. Learn how to define and write tertiary characters, protagonists, foils, and everything in between.
The protagonist vs. antagonist relationship is what makes your story a story. Learn how to craft each of these characters brilliantly and create conflict your readers will keep thinking about long after "the end."
The Nice Guy trope: it's gotten increasingly controversial in the last few years, but it is it all bad? What defines this trope and how do authors adapt it for the modern world? We've got those answers right here.
Is the Nice Guy trope really all that bad? Why are we suddenly giving the side-eye to all our classic romantic heroes? Here's everything you ever wanted to know about the Nice Guy, from the trope's influence on culture to its evolution in a new age of storytelling.
Even if they aren't the star of the show, secondary characters can live rent-free in the minds of your readers long after your story is over. That's if you put in the work, though. So, in this article, we're going to figure out how to craft memorable Side Characters.