Made in America

Character Development Tips

When you read a book, you want to be transported into the main character’s life. You want to feel what they feel, think what they think and be who they are.

The first step to building that type of experience as an author is by creating a character that’s relatable; one that has depth and layers that the readers can peel back and uncover as they flip past page after page. This is what makes character development so important to the overall plot of your story.

Here are some helpful tips to get you started:


A flat character will likely be a boring character. To make your plot more relatable, you’ll want your main character to have quirks, personality traits and physical identifiers that make them seem human. Start with their physical appearance. Perhaps your main character is a rugged man with a beard, tattoos and a scar on his cheek. Or, she’s a refined woman with a slim figure, jet black hair and large black-rimmed glasses. A physical description can help paint a picture in the readers’ minds of what the main character looks like. Then build on this premise, including creating their personality. Perhaps they fidget when they’re nervous, or absentmindedly bite their nails when they’re deep in thought. Identifiable habits will humanize your character – something your readers will appreciate.


As people grow, they encounter many obstacles as they are trying to navigate through life. When developing your main character, you want to identify those internal and external struggles that motivate them to act a certain way. Are they anxious? Are they afraid to step outside of their comfort zone? Does your character turn people away out of fear of getting their heart broken? Take your time and think about these obstacles because they’ll play an integral role in the overall development of your plot as well!

As your story develops, your character will likely endure an external obstacle that brings to light the intricacies of their personality. Consider creating scenarios that could potentially play out in real life. Perhaps your character is one mortgage payment away from foreclosure, or they have to make a big move across the country to start a new life. These real-life situations can help your readers connect to the main character on a personal, relatable level.


Not every story needs an arch-nemesis or a situation that could cripple your main character. But, if your plot allows it, adding this element of tension can create some interesting layers to your story. Identify your character’s kryptonite, whether it’s a person they are at odds with or even a situation that could completely derail their progress. The threat of being defeated could add considerable depth to your story that will have your readers feverishly turning the pages.

Your main character is the captain of your story’s ship, the person who will lead your readers on an exciting journey through choppy waters, calm seas and into uncharted territory. Give your character depth that will allow them to grow in these situations, and your readers will be taken along on the ride as well.

Copyright Dorrance Publishing, 2017

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