How do conversations help develop character

Invent figures / characters

It is the characters in your novel that determine the success and failure of the work. People are most interested in people, mostly anyway. Here you will find help and suggestions to invent, work out and skillfully introduce into your novel interesting, exciting, special, lovable, hateful and extraordinary figures or characters.

Check out which images come up in you when you think about reading a little longer in the past. It's the characters of the novel that first come to mind. Not the plot, however action-packed it was. First, the image of a figure appears. And that actually says it all.

What are good characters?

That is the 1 million euro question when writing a novel. There is no magic bullet. In the end, it is a subjective feeling whether the characters are coherent and yet captivating, arouse our emotions. You can develop such contributors in your story in a number of ways - we introduce some of them here.

... we read on mainly because we want to know what happens to the characters. But in order for us to seriously care about these ..., they must become human beings for us. Elizabeht George, writer

It would be nice if you (and your test readers) answered the following question with "Yes" at the end of the character development: "Is this character so interesting that I want to read a story about it or see a film about it?"

How do you get there? There are a few rules and best practices, but of course you can ignore or break them as you wish. In the end it should only work :-), in other words, to captivate the reader and not let them be bored or groan in annoyance, "because no one would ever act or feel that way".

We start with general recommendations.

Figures have to want something

We are guided through life by our needs and passions. In addition, there are instinctive actions and, rarely, rational decisions. For your book, it is important that your main characters have a goal in mind and pursue it with commitment.

Not as tepid as we experience it in everyday life. "I'd have to ...", "I'll start tomorrow ..." or "It would be nice if ..." - No! Your characters are about to be or not to be. No compromises, at least not at the beginning of the story.

Through these desires you come into conflict with the outside world, with an opponent, nature, the political system, etc. Or with your own values ​​... it doesn't matter, the main thing is that resistance is involved. Conflict captivates readers.

This is how your novel starts rolling. The characters try to overcome the resistance, succeed, meet new ones and in the end the whole thing somehow dissolves.

A character has to be believable

Even the compassionate self-made millionaire is disturbing because you are actually more concerned about your own well-being when you become so financially successful. A traveling salesman who travels around the world all year round, but at the same time is said to have a great interest in the well-being of his children, is also unbelievable. The two do not go together properly. It is not impossible, but if you as an author do not give a proper explanation, it will disturb the reader.

In order to achieve this credibility, it helps to invent characters,

  • whose emotions you can empathize and / or
  • to whom you have sympathetic feelings and
  • whose experiences you live through in your mind.

Above all, you should carefully justify the special properties, the salient features. Why did this boy become a fighting machine, why does he desperately want to become president or how did he get the gift of prophecy?
It is helpful for a credible course of action to have your characters to take seriously. Would she really act like that? Tip: Try to understand the motivations of the character specifically in your mind, to experience them there. If there is no strange feeling, the reader will also consider the character of the novel to be plausible.

The character has to fit the plot

Some authors report that over the course of a story their characters simply refuse to do what they want them to do as a writer. The character's characteristics prevent the next necessary step from being taken.

How could this happen? Quite simply - the character doesn't match the plot the author had in mind. She's probably been too superficial in developing the characters. Or she simply ignored the course of action.

If you, as a writer, ignore these problems and let the characters commit acts that do not suit the character, your entire novel will be perceived as bad.
What helps against this trap? Of course, to coordinate plot and character. Get a good feel for your characters before you get down to the rough draft of your text. Write résumés of your characters. Think about which tasks and conflicts should appear in the plot so that your characters can unleash their full potential in fireworks. Coordinate plot and character.

Appearance and behavior

Briefly, a few basic words about the appearance of the novel's staff. You've heard before that you should have a clear picture of your contributors, even if you don't reveal all the details to the reader as the book progresses. It is important that you know the details. To be safe in dealing with your characters. In order not to stumble, in order to remain credible.

Ideally, the outside reflects something of the inside of your figure. This makes them appear more authentic (in a subconscious way) to your readership. An example would be the red hair combined with a lively temperament.

Then have an idea of ​​the physical limits of your character. Can the 8 year old child on page 13 really lift the heavy cage off the table? Is that why it should be closer to 10? Or does the nice old man next door fail to operate the smartphone lying around? Do I have to make him younger because of that? Or do I give him a weakness for technical innovations?

behavior

The behavior of a character is of particular attraction to the reader. Ticks and peculiarities are very popular, but they should harmonize with the character of the figure and result in a coherent overall picture.

How does your protagonist make his bed? How does he talk to his manager? How does he prepare breakfast? Actions, carried out in a specific way and described in detail, can help characterize your character. They round out the figure, bring it closer to the reader and thus draw him deeper into the fictional world.

If you have carefully worked out your character, you can give him a life of his own in the writing process. Its behavior should then result from its properties. From what he likes to do and for which you gave him the skills.

The language

Special language peculiarities of a character can serve several purposes:

  • Arouse sympathy or antipathy for the figure
  • characterize the person, e.g. enable conclusions to be drawn about the level of education and origin, reveal attitudes towards groups of people, etc. Silence also reveals something.
  • To tell people apart during a dialogue - you don't always have to write "said Detlef" when Detlef is the only one in the midst of speaking Bavarian slang

Therefore, when working out your figures, consider whether they might not have special linguistic features that make them stand out from the crowd. Or which underline their special properties.

And: When you design dialogues, the expression and choice of words should match the intelligence, origin and upbringing of your character.

The name of the character

Don't underestimate the impact of the names of your book staff, especially those of the protagonist and antagonist. Their names will perhaps be the most common words in your book.

Names create impressions with us. Who thinks of Margarete as a top model? Or at Ede to an intelligent physicist? The sound of the name should match the character.

Harry Potter, Frodo, Tom Sawyer, Moby Dick, Selma and Louise, Mickey Mouse. What do these names have in common? They are not tongue twisters, they are memorable, they harmonize with the respective character. They are often two-syllable. The last name matches the first name. Our tip: only deviate from these standards if you have good reasons to do so.

In addition, the name should also match the area in which your novel is set.
No ideas for good names? Not a problem in the age of the internet. Here is a little one

Selection of aids:

Avoid clichés

The cigar-smoking bank manager, the shabby private detective, the daring adventurer ... everything has been there dozens of times and is therefore of no interest to the reader. One says.

Therefore try to find new combinations of properties, possibly taking into account the realities of modern times. A cocaine-addicted investigator would be very reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, someone who doesn't necessarily drink Red Bull all day.

A complex character with Contradictions, with which the reader also sometimes surprises experienced is the best protection against the cliché trap. If the character comes across as believable, reading enjoyment and lasting memories of this novel person are assured.

There can be a little more in the book

Most people's tepid everyday motivation has no place in the novel. It almost always bores the reader. The characters in your book should be well motivated, desperately wanting something. That drives the novel forward and lets the reader get excited. He makes the goal of the protagonist his own.

The main motivation of the protagonist is often the driving force behind the whole novel. Compass of the plot and energy source of the plot at the same time. Therefore this goal should be well founded and of course difficult to achieve.

But the other characteristics and living conditions should also be more extreme. Fictional characters live more intensely, have more sex, unusual hobbies ... A good guideline would be if you give each character an extreme attribute: a particularly experienced pilot, a photographic memory, deep empathy ... This has a beneficial effect on the liveliness of your entire book . But, see below, if a figure is great in one area, it should fail in another.

The protagonist carries out his actions with convincing know-how. He / she works on the so-called maximum capacity. In other words: As best you can at any given time. As an author, it is up to you to spend days thinking about a reaction that only takes up a few paragraphs in the book. Do not let the character fall short of their possibilities. This also applies to dialogue. To check this recommendation, you can always ask yourself the question of your plot: What else could the character do that would be smarter, more dramatic, funnier or more surprising? It just has to remain credible.

Alternatively or in addition, contrary character traits are refreshing: the honest housewife who strips in the evening, the pastor who plays poker, etc.

Strong urges such as lust for fame, sadism, pathological ambition, hatred ...

Interesting characters are good and bad

We humans all have the "good" and the "bad" in us. With one, this comes into play, with the other, that. A good figure quickly becomes clichéd and boring. Therefore, create your character with weaknesses and / or forbidden desires and / or mean approaches. In this way, you make the reader feel much more like reading about a real person and pull them deeper into your fictional world. In addition, mistakes are exciting for other people: Will this gross character trait be uncovered in the course of the book? Is that why the protagonist gets into trouble?

These negative character traits represent a good protection against the tendency of most new authors to let the plot ripple without conflict. Conflict and thus tension can build up again and again on an indecent move, an aversion or a weakness.

"Nobody wants to read about perfect characters." Elizabeth George, writer

This "versatility" of your figure also gives it depth and thus makes it appear more real.

Inner conflicts

As already described, a novel in which the plot ripples along without any problems is just plain boring. Conflict and resistance are the solution to this problem. This also applies to figures. Elizabeth George emphasizes that the reader is not interested in anyone who is healthy and happy. In your misery and misery, in the fight against strokes of fate, you grab our attention.
A major source of tension for your book can be the internal conflict between the people.

Take, for example, a businessman who wants to be honest. Will he make his customers aware of the disadvantages of the business? Or a policeman who wants to give his daughter a year abroad and is offered hush money. Or the woman who falls in love with your best friend's partner. Two inner desires of the character always fight against each other and captivate the reader: Which desire will gain the upper hand?

Inner conflicts usually result from contradicting motives of the protagonists. But they can also be caused by your own inability to do the math: too weak mathematical skills for the desired course of study, a dark spot in the past that is not indicated in the job application, the urge to stay in the morning versus the ambition to move forward ... against your personal weaknesses. The possibilities are endless.
Often times internal conflict is about fear of doing something. You want something, but you don't dare. Maybe because of bad experiences. Always let the inner conflict be well founded, describe details from the life story that make this conflict clear or justify it.

Even strong characters can sometimes be weak

Everyone has ups and downs in life, sometimes we feel good, everything works out and we push things forward. At other times we are powerless, make mistakes, or even be angry. This also brings a figure to life and can lead to internal conflict.

Top characters develop

A static figure, for example the depressed widow, who remains sad throughout the book, leads to boredom. Dynamic developments captivate the reader. Therefore, if possible, the characters should also move from A to B. This can be used very nicely if the protagonist can only win the main conflict of the novel through this maturation.

People grow from experience. Your characters could grow from the experiences and insights in the novel. In particular, dealing with conflicts leads to inner growth. Your fellow novelists will learn, acquire new skills and thus be able to solve the tasks in the book at the end.

Or, in the case of conflicting desires: At the beginning of the book you give in to one desire, but at the end of the book you give in to the opposite. And so solve the main conflict.

Or maybe not. You can also send the figures into a downward spiral, let them sink lower and lower. The decisive factor is change, which we as readers want to see.

Conclusion: The characters in the novel are welcome to be different people at the end of the book than they were at the beginning.

The central character

Finally, it should be said that you should work out everything mentioned above, especially for the central character of your book. This is the guide of the book for the reader. He takes care of the meaning of the action (from his motives, which the reader adopts), thus creates feelings and continuously drives the action forward.
So pay special attention to it.

How do I get to know my characters?

Many writers sit down only to the rough version of a storywhen you have worked out all the participants in your novel. Quite simply because a lot of the story is contained in the characters' characteristics.

Some ask themselves a multitude of questions about your characters, others put themselves in the shoes of these characters for weeks and ask themselves, for example, at every event: What would character XY say about it now? How would she react? What would you think? Still others write full résumés for each character.

Either way, you should know your main characters very well before you even start writing. For secondary characters, superficial characteristics are sufficient, but about your first set you should:

  • Everything for Outer know especially the characteristic properties
  • The Core need (or several) as a guideline for the behavior of a character. In the case of children, for example, physical security, predictability of the environment, love, attention, praise, empathy and curiosity are mentioned here. In adults, other needs sometimes come to the fore: sexual goals, need for recognition, financial success, etc.
  • The prehistory know your figure
  • Everything know about social class, friends, family and extended surroundings. The schools, the beliefs, the political attitudes, the type of education of the respective figure.
  • The psychological trials and tribulations and mastering details: intelligence, longings, motivations, addictions, sexual preferences, inhibitions, fears, talents, habits, sensitivities.

The reader is interested in details from the lives of the main characters. This results in motivations and actions, and these drive the story forward.
We have put together some aids on literatur-welten.de. Especially with a large number of figures, an Excel table of the contributors is recommended to keep an overview. Have a look which of them are useful for you:

Character checklist

Get specific - the characters in your novel need very specific characteristics in order to become reality for the reader: a home, a hair color, a certain character, friends, independent feelings. You don't have to include all of the details of a character in the book, but you should keep them in mind for yourself.

The simplest approach to characterizing your characters is to use a table to determine their internal and external characteristics. How deep you go here depends on the importance of each person in your novel and the specifics of your story. A book about a model contest, for example, should reveal more about the external characteristics of the participants than would be necessary for a spy thriller.

An Excel table has proven itself for this work step, with which you can also keep a clear overview of a large number of figures. We offer you two versions for free download: a longer version for the main characters of the novel, a shorter version for secondary characters. Simply adapt the table to your needs by adding or deleting rows.

Write a resume

A large part of the actions, trials and tribulations of a person are based on their individual life story. Knowing this story enables us to predict future decisions and reactions of the person almost prophetically. This is why it makes so much sense to have CVs in mind, at least for the main characters in a story.

Let's say you were always teased and teased by your siblings. Wouldn't that wonderful justify a fear of people or misanthropism? Or the residential area next to the outdoor pool a later swimming career?
You can then ideally use details from this life story in brief flashbacks (often just one sentence) to make the next reaction of your character plausible.

But such a résumé is not only used to justify a character's actions psychologically. You will also need their past, friends, family, education, needs etc for the details in the plot. After all, your character gets called, meets someone on the street and works somewhere. If you want to keep all of this together, a character's résumé will serve you well.
This résumé is in part a more detailed version of the character checklist, but it does not have the same clarity. That is why we use the résumés to get closer to the characters, to get to know them ourselves. For writing, we then transfer the most important properties to the character checklist.

Some authors mark in the resume (including character traits) the points that should appear in the first draft of the plot.

An everyday life

Are you ready to put your character invention to the test? Then send the novelist on a journey through everyday life. Describe a normal day in your character's life. Don't let anything special happen, let the day ripple by. Your protagonist does not act with maximum capacity as in the book, but celebrates an unspectacular day.

He / she wakes up in the morning - what then? How does he / she feel? What does he / she do first, what next, etc. In the end: how does he / she fall asleep.

Can you describe this day without any problems? Does it run smoothly from your pen? This is a good sign that you are familiar with yourself - she is ready to appear in the novel.

Additional tip: talk to the characters, ask questions

If you get stuck in your character or plot development, just ask the character. Sit down and write down what answers this figure would give. A good opportunity to find new ideas and plausible approaches.
You can do this on a walk. Pretend the character is walking next to you. Ask him something to warm up

Harmless things, for example: "How are you today?" When you start talking like that, you ask deeper and deeper questions. Many ingenious ideas result from this method.

However, you do not have to wait until problems arise with this practice. With every "walk" with your characters you get to know them better, you become more familiar - and writing becomes easier.

The following questions can be a good starting point:

  • What do you think of yourself?
  • How do you feel about your family?
  • What do you dream of during the day?
  • What kind of sex do you like?
  • How do you feel about great love?
  • What would you most like to change about yourself?
  • How do you like your body

Link tip:
http://www.schriftsteller-haben.de/charakterentwicklung/100-fragen-fuer-deine-charaktere/ - more than enough virtual topics to talk about!

The figure ensemble

Lajos Egri said: A good orchestration of the characters in the novel is important - there cannot be only violin players. Make sure that your characters fit together well, form a coherent ensemble that complements and fits the plot of the novel.
It becomes interesting when there are family relationships between people (Ken Follet thinks that every great novel is a family novel). This is a good way to achieve melting pot effects (the characters cannot simply part) and create deep conflicts.

The Evil

You should pay particular attention to the plausible justification of the antagonist (opponent). Only rarely is he allowed to be a callous psychopath who pushes through his interests without regard to others. A character who does evil because of compulsions or who acts unfairly in the face of a bad past appears much more realistic. Important: The opponent should have about the same strength as the protagonist - so that it doesn't get boring :-)

How do I get ideas for interesting characters

First of all, you should get to know the motives of perfectly normal people. Just ask everyone why they're doing this and that. You will hear amazing answers.
Next, you can find typical character traits in astrology guides. Here you will find a variety of typical characteristics of people. Some link tips:

Alternatively or in addition, you take a few standard psychology works (or their summaries :-)) or look at, for example:

Additional tip: Simply mix up the character traits of characters you know and see what comes out of it. Does it seem coherent? Could this give rise to any interesting complications? This way you can also avoid that your friends recognize each other too quickly in your novels :-)

Or, as I said above, go to one public place, listen to the conversations and create a résumé from what you hear. This helps to detach your fictional characters from their own biography and thus to open up other worlds.

Archetypes

A large number of great (well-read) novels are populated by a handful of character types, the so-called archetypes. As with the hero's journey, these can be found in numerous cultures and are often part of the success of these stories. You should know them in order to use them consciously or to leave them out. What are the typical archetypes?

  • Hero and villain - we've already had that.
  • Friend of the hero - the helper, in the rank below the hero
  • Mentor - the wise teacher
  • The opaque one
  • The shy one - fails to recognize his abilities, underestimates himself
  • The ugly duckling - with the big heart
  • The cardsharp - pretends to be someone else
  • The two-pager - Jekyll and Hyde rolled into one
  • The good-natured and helpful giant (Chewbacca, Hagrid)
  • The prankster
  • The flail - leaves no faux pas
  • The doppelganger - often symbolizes the dark side of the hero

Introduce characters in the novel

Now the time has finally come - the characters and the plot are in place, the story should begin. Do not make the mistake of telling everything about the history of the people involved in a page-long list. Let the carefully selected and meaningful details of your characters gradually flow into the story. If you've been thorough in character development, only part of what you know about that person will be disclosed in the novel. Some writing guides even speak of the tip of the iceberg.

Always reveal a small part of the character - your reader only gets to know the character in the course of the book. As with an onion, you can expose the inside of your character to the reader, layer by layer.

But: Your audience has to get to know a person before they can take an emotional part in their destiny. So if you want to arouse tragic feelings through an accident, your reader must have found out who was involved in the accident beforehand. Here it is important to find a compromise between the presentation of the characters and the driving of action.

Show, don't tell

And if you then incorporate the characteristics into the story, it is better to show these characteristics indirectly, for example with the help of actions: A great man always has to look down when he talks to others. A fat man has trouble fastening the button on his pants. Not to say: he is good at mental arithmetic, but to show that he knew the sum of the shopping cart in front of the cashier.

The character can be characterized particularly believably through dialogue. What and how she says something reveals a lot to her being. Or, if used skillfully, information about the protagonist's past, in dialogue, in thought or in an indirect way.

Every conflict lends itself to delaminating the characteristics of your characters in a novel: How do they act, what do they avoid. Is the character roaring or lying? Everything gives a picture. Much more impressive and drawing the reader into the story than just naming the properties.

Do you have a tip for character development? How did you get ideas? We'd love your contribution below.