Analysing Characters

Characters Change

Stories are about characters and how they change. Without a change the story is trivial.

So ask yourself the following:

  • Do you have a clear central character that readers can identify with?
  • Will readers want to spend time in the world with these characters?
  • Is the character fully developed and believable?
  • How does the character grow and develop through the story – what is their journey’ (to quote an overused phrase)
  • What are the characters like? How do you know this?
  • What do the characters say (dialogue)?
  • What do the characters do?
  • How are they described?
  • How are they seen by other characters?

Make sure that all the characters’ story arcs are engaging – even the baddies – otherwise the reader will not want to spend time with them – if not don’t have them as a main character. Don’t bore your reader!

Keep the character for only as long as you need them and no longer. If their part in the main story is played send them happily off into the sunset or kill them off – whatever works best.

How do you know if they are a main character?

1st or 3rd Person Point of View – if you give a character a role to play in showing the action then they are a major character.

If the character has a flaw that you want to show has a bearing on the action in the story, or the theme of the tale you are telling, and this results in a journey for that person, then this character is probably a major character. If they are flawed and need to change but it doesn’t drive your main story, or support the theme you are exploring, then dump them as a main character and don’t waste too much time on them.

Think about why you engage with a particular character who stands out in a novel you have read and why you remember them:

  • Did you admire them?
  • Did you identity with them?
  • Did you want elements of the life they led?
  • Did they make you feel empathy or emotional resonance?
  • Were you intrigued by what had happened to them and what would happen to them?
  • Did they have a life outside the book and did you wonder what happens to them after the novel?
  • Was it because there were layers and depth in the character?
  • Was it that they were real and you were able to visualise them? If so why? Was it because of their flaws?
  • Did you enjoy experiencing the story vicariously through them – particularly a baddie?
  • Was it because of the conflict that they faced?

Try and identify what it is you enjoyed and why and see if you can apply this to your character and plot development.