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Friday, July 22, 2016

Character Development Exercise For Writers

 Characterization is a big part of writing fiction, be it a novel or a short story, or even fiction for children. When you begin, you have the main characters in mind but what do you really know about each one? If you're lucky, you'll have this character really defined in your mind and will be able to transfer him/her in print so that your reader can see and know exactly what you see and know.

For most of us, however, we don't have our characters completely defined. The Character Brainstorming chart above would be a good aid in doing so. I'll list the categories below:


  • Name
  • Gender
  • Hometown
  • Age
  • Looks
  • Family
  • Favorite Food
  • Biggest Fear
  • Favorite Activity
  • Least Favorite Activity
  • Best Friend
  • Anything Else
You can jot down words or phrases next to each category, or you can write an entire paragraph or more. Let your imagination take you as far as possible.By the time you get through the entire list, you should have a pretty good idea of who this person is and  how he/she thinks or what motivates him/her.

Do this for each of the main characters in your story. When you know the characters well, you should be able to write your story easily. In fact, the characters may take hold of the story and let you know exactly how to write it. Don't laugh. It can happen that way. 

The longer your story is, or if a novel, the greater character development you'll do. In a middle grade short story, the word count maximum is often so short that the writer doesn't have time to fully develop a character, but write a book for kids of that age, and you can make your characters come alive just as an adult novelist does.

I can hear some of you saying that doing this Character Brainstorming exercise will take up too much time. You'd rather write the story and develop the character as you go. If that works for you, fine. But do give this exercise a try at least for one story or book and see if you think it worth the time and effort. 

I think that you might even use this exercise when writing a memoir piece. Sure, you already know the characters but your reader does not. Much of what you know about each character in a memoir is already-learned knowledge and you might not convey the full character to the reader. 

I would like to credit whoever designed the Character Brainstorming Chart but I found it one day without any name or other identification. I think the person who designed the exercise would be pleased that it is being used. At least, I hope so!


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