Character development

Let’s talk about characters.

Characters are essential to nearly every story – well, okay, every story that I can think of. In fact, if I start reading a book and I don’t like the characters, I’m less likely to continue reading it. But we can talk about creating compelling and interesting characters later. For now, let’s stick to development.

There are two ways to develop your characters: direct and indirect. Both ways can be useful and can move your story along. Of course, there are limits to them, as well.

Direct characterization is when the writer simply states something about their character. Let’s say you want to convey that your character is deathly afraid of heights. Here’s how you would say it directly:

He was terrified of heights.

It feels very clunky, doesn’t it? Depending on the rest of the composition, it might flow or it might not. It’s just a fact that was thrown out there for your readers to enjoy.

Of course, you could use indirect characterization as well. Indirect characterization is when the writer doesn’t just say the trait about the character – they show it. Let’s use the character who’s afraid of heights again:

He refused to go one step closer to the edge of the cliff; the very thought of stepping closer made his stomach lurch.

It’s a bit longer, but it conveys the same thing. And it’s more interesting than just flat-out stating his fear of heights. Now we have a physical reaction along with the implied fear, and an indication of setting. There’s a cliff to spark his fear.

Personally, when writing, I prefer indirect characterization – but there’s a place and time for direct characterization as well. I usually use direct characterization when someone is thinking about another character or meeting them for the first time. We tend to think in direct terms – but we should write in indirect terms.

Good luck with your own characterization, and happy writing!

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