Characterization: Exploring Character Development in Your Writing

FREE eBook on character development! Master direct and indirect characterization + the importance of first impressions and your prologue.
Publish date:

Learn How to Introduce Your Main Character

There are simple differences in the way you handle character development when writing your novel—whether it be something like direct characterization (where you write about the character’s attributes and personality directly, without beating around the busy) or indirect characterization (where you slowly reveal elements about the character through his or her actions, thoughts, dialogue, and how other characters respond to them). There are many elements involved and it’s very important that you introduce your main character the right way in order to make sure your readers feel attached to your lead and stick with your story.

In this free download, you’ll get the inside scoop on the key things to consider when revealing your main character for the first time. You’ll learn why that first impression is so important and what you need to consider before starting your manuscript with a prologue instead of starting with Chapter 1. You’ll also get some advice on how to handle secondary characters and how fictional character development can really set OK novels apart from great ones. So download it now—it’s free!

Enter your email to join the Writer's Digest newsletter and get your free download!

How should you reveal your main character for the first time? Get this free download to find the perfect first impression.

Here's a Sneak Peek Inside this Free Guide to Character Development

This free download challenges you to look at your character from all angles and make decisions based on what you find. Its goal is in line with yours: Finding the best way to bring readers into your story and help them identify with your characters. That's why we're offering it up for free—you just need to download it.

Great Expectations within Character Development

In your novel, just like in real life, first impressions matter. During character creation you must keep in mind that how you introduce your character will convey and set certain expectations for your reader. You don’t want to start off with a long character bio, but you will want to focus on certain elements. And your early character description will go a long way in developing your protagonist vs. antagonist relationship that will ultimately make or break your novel.

Who is this Person? Building Personalities in Characterization

Some writers are plot-first novelists. Others are character-first novelists. Either way, you can’t ignore the importance of character development. When creating protagonists and antagonists (and secondary characters as well), it’s key to avoid writing stereotypical characters. After all, novels with stereotypical characters—or characters who have virtually no differentiation from one another at all—are not typically published. You must figure out who your characters are.

Prologue vs. Chapter One

How you start your novel relies heavily on your character arc and how you want to introduce your main character. After hammering out some character sketches, you need to decide if the first scene of your novel involves your main character or if the scene is out of time sequence and is being used to set up suspense down the road. Taking everything mentioned in this free download into consideration is essential when deciding where your lead comes into play.

Capturing Your Hero’s Essence

When you’re focused on character development writing, you can study up on archetypal characters to understand the inner workings of a solid hero. But when learning how to develop characters, you really need to understand what is at your main character’s core. Have you done your homework in creating everything there is to know about your character—including background, history, phobias, nervous habits, etc.? There’s a two-fold process that can help you turn the literary characterization of your lead that you’ve developed in your notes into dynamite scenes that will have your readers thirsty for more story about your main character.

Claim This FREE Download: Developing Characterization in "The First 50 Pages"

Get all the tips in your free download on direct and indirect characterization to define main character traits for your novel!

Understanding how to develop a character is a critical when deciding how to bring your hero (or heroine) into the pages of your book. Do you start with an action scene depicting your lead doing something amazing? Do you wait and start with a sub-story, bringing your main character in only after setting a scene? In 13 Reasons Why, author Jay Asher introduces one of his two main characters, Clay Jensen, in a prologue that shows him mailing out Hannah Baker's package after the day's events (which you will experience over the course of the novel). But he doesn't really introduce Hannah Baker until Chapter 1. This was deliberate and clearly chosen to draw the reader in (and it works!). That's why How to Introduce Your Main Character is an important read, as it gives you all the tools necessary to think through the ever-so-important task of revealing your lead character to your readers. Download your copy for free:

Enter your email to join the Writer's Digest newsletter and get your free download!


New Agent Alert: Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.


Timothy Miller: The Alluring Puzzle of Fact and Fiction

Screenwriter and novelist Timothy Miller explains how he came to write historical fiction and how research can help him drive his plot.


Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.


Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!


20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.


Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.