3 Characterization Tips to use when Writing Your Novel

Writing a novel? Struggling to bring your characters to life? Here are 3 tips that will help make your characters three dimensional!

1. Don’t Rely On Appearance Alone

It’s more important to describe a characters inward appearance than it is how they look on the outside. Showing how a character communicates with others reveals their personality, and what makes them unique.

Dialogue is often a great tool to reveal more about a character. Also, if a novel is written in first person point of view, this allows for readers to really “see” inside the mind of a character. This is especially true if the book is written through more than one perspective.

While describing physical appearance is important, it’s even more important to describe behavior.

If you’re struggling with writing a character, write 20 things that the reader will never know about your character. These will naturally bleed into your writing and provide a richness even though you don’t share the detail

Barbara Poelle

Actions reveal more about a persons motivation, and will propel the plot forward.

Don’t rely on appearance alone. Well rounded characters have personality and a heart that makes them appear more human to readers…unless, of course, the character is an alien. But that’s a different story entirely.

2. Character Names Have Meaning

Don’t just name a character the first name that comes to mind. Add meaning to it by choosing a name that represents some symbolic point in your story.

For instance, in Harry Potter, the name Harry actually means house protector or army commander — a parallel to the larger plot of the novel.

“I can write anywhere. I made up the names of the characters on a sick bag while I was on an airplane. I told this to a group of kids and a boy said, ‘Ah, no, that’s disgusting.’ And I said, ‘Well, I hadn’t used the sick bag.’”


Not every character name is going to have a hidden meaning, but it can be an interesting stylistic element that adds depth and further enhances the story.

3. Reveal Character Thoughts and Emotions

Finding ways to enhance character thoughts and emotions is critical to creating three dimensional characters.

Showing how a character reacts to situations or plot twists reveals more about who they are, and whether readers can or should identify with them.

Even if a novel isn’t written through first person point of view, a character’s inner thoughts can still be revealed. Utilizing third person omniscient (when the narrator knows the thoughts and emotions of all characters) perspective is a great way to show more about what motivates a character, and why they act the way they do.

How someone reacts to any given situation or plot twist, can add a complex dynamic. For example, maybe a character is fighting a war and must act strong and brave on the outside, but on the inside they reveal an internal dialogue of anxiety and fear.

Allowing insight into the mind of a character allows readers to truly understand their intent, and who they are.

You must learn to be three people at once: writer, character, and reader

Nancy Kress

Of course, there are many other methods of characterization, but the main goal is to make characters relatable and more human-unless, they are not human…but again, you get the point: No one likes a “flat” character, so truly striving to bring your characters to life is important!

How do you create more believable characters in your writing? Comment below!

Writing Tips

Rachel Writes View All →

Hi! My name is Rachel. I love to write. Write about life, love, and reflect on how the past builds the future. Mostly, I love to tell stories because I believe there is something about stories that brings the world closer together. You can check out some of my writing reflections here at Rachel Writes.

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