#A-Z Challenge: C is for Characterisation

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For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

C is for Characterisation


Characters can drive a novel. Their problems, crises and development can bring a reader in, enthrall, excite and even inspire. The conflicts and dilemmas your characters face, their feelings, thoughts and actions should be at the heart of your novel. So how do you create a character your readers will want to follow?

  • You don’t have to like your characters. Your readers don’t need to feel sympathetic or to relate to them. There are plenty of fascinating anti-heroes out there. What matters is that your readers are drawn into the world of your character. Get inside your character’s head, and let your reader in there too.
  • Know your character. What drives them? What do they want? What do they need? What do they like? What do they hate? Understand your character and their motivations.
  • Don’t bombard your reader with lots of description of a character’s physical appearance, likes and dislikes etc. Show the character through actions, dialogue, thoughts, body language and the reactions other characters have to the main character.
  • Give your characters flaws. Don’t make them perfect.
  • Avoid stereotypes and clichés. Not all prostitutes have hearts of gold. Not all vegans are sandal-wearing hippies. You get the idea.
  • Keep your characters true to themselves. Let their actions be realistic for who they are.

Remember, your characters need to be real in your mind to make them real on the page.

Got any tips about characterisation? Please share them by leaving a comment below.


  1. I’m writing at the moment Alison and your tips are really helping. My tip, to stir things up a bit let a character act ‘out of character’ as we all do sometimes in real life. I know if it surprises me, it’ll surprise my reader too!


  2. I agree with all the above, and think character is my weakest area. Interestingly, I tend to forget to give any physical descriptions of my characters and my draft readers pick up on this and nudge me until I add something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hilary. TBH I actually don’t like much physical description in a novel – I prefer to picture characters in the way I choose. Unless some physical aspect is important, i really think less is more.


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