top of page

How to Develop your Characters

The definition of Character development is the process of building a unique believable person and/or the changes that the character goes through during the story.

Character development is essential not only to your readers but to the story itself. Now you can go into their flaws, quirks, and upbringing, but to be honest, there is so much more to it than that. Let’s set aside character arcs for now because that is a whole other animal to tackle. Instead, let’s focus on building the character.

I have been writing for some time. However, all of my stories have been short. So this whole novel thing has been an adventure. I’ve had to read many books and attended Google University. I have also been honored to be a part of this fantastic community. If you have a question, all of these wonderful creators will answer them.

And through this journey, I wanted to share how I build my characters in the simplest way possible, a list.

Order in arrangement from most important to least, who gets a name and who doesn’t, and finally, what’s their goal or do they need any.

First! Categorize, this is how I break down my characters:

  • Main characters (protagonists and antagonists, because bad guys need the same love as the heroes).

  • Supporting characters or sidekicks - the best friends to the stars of the story.

  • Honorable mentions - they need names, but not much else.

  • The nameless – you know that one guy who took the horse to the stable? Yeah, me either.

Second, to name or not to name.

A couple of months ago, I had an epiphany regarding my characters and their development. I was struggling to come up with names for some minor, easily forgettable people. Now I know what your thinking ‘. You shouldn’t name characters who don’t have an impact on the story. I know, I know! But hear me out on this.

When you are at an event, meeting, school function, you are introduced to new people. You may forget them an hour later, but you at least heard their name. To me, it is a sign of respect and acknowledgment. Do you need their backstory? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends if they have an impact somewhere.

Here are some helpful questions to ask:

  • Will they return later in the story? If no. Don’t name them. Not every stranger you meet gives you their name.

  • Do they have an essential role within the story, such as a member of a household, friend of someone important, etc. but will not be mentioned again? Yes, give them a first name only.

  • Does said character have a minimal light role and will make a minor if not a significant impact later in the story? Yes, they need a name.

Third, backstory.

So how much backstory do you need for your creations?

It should stand to reason that you need to know how your babies will react in certain situations. You should also understand why they act the way they do. But is there such a thing as too much development for the stars of your story? I want to say no. But that doesn’t mean you need to create a forty-two-page biography on them either. Let me show you an example of one of my main characters in The Witch’s Crystal. I used the character development section from The Writer Community’s Series Bible.

Main characters:

  • Derek Arundel (I have removed some information to protect you from spoilers)

  • Full name: Crown Prince Derek Pascal Oliver Arundel

  • Physical Characteristics (age, hair color, etc.) – 32, brown hair & eyes, 6’.

  • Occupation: Crown Prince and Knight-Sorcerer.

  • Goal/Purpose for the story: To become King, make his country an epicenter of knowledge and trade

  • Motivation for pursuing the goal: Save his country from ruin and war.

  • Interests: His pet dragons, jousting

  • Flaws: Second guesses himself, paranoid of death

  • Quirks:

  • Fears: Death

  • Happy place: In his bedroom with Raziel.

  • What is unique about them? While Marckus was reckless and didn’t show any signs of wanting to rule, Derek excelled at strategy and magic. It’s not really fair to compare the 2. Derek’s father was always present in his life and took tremendous pride in his son.

  • Backstory: Derek was never supposed to rule. His older cousin Marckus was the crown prince. But since he died in the massacre, leaving Derek as the only male heir, he had no choice but to step up. Derek completed his Knight training in record speed but refused the traditional ceremony (Tannis thinks it’s rigged). There have been 3 attempts on his life after we arrived at court. He married Raziel after consulting Lady Gurris, his mother’s best friend.

  • We find them at the beginning of the book: Derek desperately tries to secure a trade agreement that will bring in silks spices.

  • What is his perspective on the world: primarily good. He sees advancement in alchemy. The Nambers and, of course, the Isels are to be feared when it comes to warfare. Derek hopes to level the field with new Knight-Sourcerers.

  • Love: Besides food, jousting, and his pet dragons. He is beginning to feel real love toward Raziel.

  • Personal power: Being a Knight-Sourcerer, he has moderate power and is considered average. But magical strength isn’t everything. He is a talented swordsman and has studied other types of combat.

  • When will he fail:

  • When will he suffer?

  • What is his language? Jatreian.

  • High born but lowly raised? Royalty, the royal house of Arundel.

  • How does this affect him: Being the spare, he never really thought he would become King. He knows his responsibility and is ready with ideas for improvement and cultural advancement. It helps to be a Knight.

  • Who are they when your story begins? A man on a mission. He has already secured the faith of part of Fanire’s Coven by marrying her sister Raziel. Lars is in charge, however, and can see through the farce.

  • What shaped them into that person, and what launches them into the journey that will forever change their world? The death of his family and friends.

  • What mistakes will they make in their journey? Trusting the wrong people just because of their accomplishments and past relationships.

  • What trials will they face, and how will these trials affect who they are?

  • What is their fight? Mainly himself and self-doubt. Fainre and her coven is the main problem.

  • What do they strive for? To become King.

  • Who helps them out along the way, and how will they overcome? Derek is trying to do it all so that no one will get hurt in the final fight. Even though he feels that he is working on this alone, he is not.

  • Who do they become because of it all?

Side characters:

  • Full name: Herod Velerios Fal Aeyros

  • Physical Characteristics (age, hair color, etc.) – 32, black curly hair & green eyes, 5’11”.

  • Occupation: Court-Sorcerer, instructor.

  • Interests: Women

  • Flaws: Women

  • Backstory: Herod was the former lover of Pearl, Derek’s sister. His father was a knight, and his mother was an esteemed Lady of the court. Both spoke against Fainre and were executed. Herod is a scholar and highly sought after for universities all of Jatere.

  • Love: Food, women, and pestering Derek.

  • Personal power:.

  • High born but lowly raised? High born, an orphan.

  • How does this affect him: t.

  • Who are they when your story begins? He appears calm and collected on the outside, continuing his pursuits. In private, he grieves for Pearl.

  • What trials will they face, and how will these trials affect who they are?

  • Who helps them out along the way, and how will they overcome?

  • Who do they become because of it all?

Honorable mentions:

Do you need their backstory? Maybe, maybe not. I feel that what motivates the characters will help you to decide. I have quite a collection of these little tidbits in my series bible. It helps to know who they are and why they are in the story.

  • Lady Pia Gurris, Lygera’s sister and best friend of Chance’s and Derek’s mother. Her husband perished in the massacre along with her only son. She never remarried.

  • Primm Snowheart, daughter of Isel General Snowheart and Nalise (ch. 2). She is Aldur’s and was Amabel’s secretary, a gifted witch. Her familiar is an arctic fox.

  • Violet and Mary, Isabel’s maids/servants (ch. 4)

The nameless:

Now, I have seen these characters pop up every now and then, but it usually leads up to a significant event, and we never hear from them again. For instance, in The Malloreoan book three, Demon Lord of Karanda, by David Eddings, we encounter Balsca, a seafarer who sleeps with a prostitute and wakes up to find her dead. He retrieves his money and finds his way to a trader willing to take him to his next destination. Not much later, the Balsca ends up dead. The trader who helps him also ends up falling ill before collapsing. This is the beginning of a plague that traps our heroes in enemy territory, preventing them from moving forward in their quest. I must say that what follows is highly entertaining!

In the end, it’s your story, and no one can tell you otherwise. The end goal is to leave your readers happy or angry. You won’t get that fantastic result with jumping around, changing your character’s eye color, and being inconsistent with their back story.

Best of luck and happy writing!

Tips for pansters and plansters: fill out the character profile as you go, don’t force yourself to get everything down.

Meet Devon Gamberell

Devon currently lives in north Florida with her husband and two teen boys. They manage a small homestead that includes several chickens, ducks, cats, vegetables, and fruit trees. She works as an internal service writer for an RV dealership, and her hobbies include sewing, paper crafting, and reading in no particular order. Her debut novel is an adult fantasy, The Witch's Crystal: Tales from Isel.

You can connect with Devon on Instagram @devongambrell and sign up to her newsletter: Snippets & Spoilers.

Related Posts

See All

Character Arcs: The Journey of Transformation

Last week, we focused in on how to develop your characters; from establishing their goals and motivations to how to make them relatable. As there is just so much to talk about in terms of characters,

How to Write Great Plot and Character Arcs

As both a writer and a reader, one of the most common debates I see is based on a preference of which type of story you prefer: plot driven or character driven? But in the end, I always felt like it w

How to Write LGBTQ+ Relationships

Oh, hello there. Don’t mind me, the panicked queer author hiding in the corner of the Romance party, sweating nervously at the prospect of having taken on far more than they can chew. As with writing


bottom of page