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5 ways characters reveal themselves

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There is more than meets the eye when it comes to your characters. Using a variety of revealing actions, you can move beyond cookie-cutter characters to ones that have depth and substance.

Some ways that you can reveal your characters include:

  • Action: whether your character attacks or retrieves can show who they are
  • Reaction: the way your character reacts to something another character says or does
  • Dialogue: the way they speak can reveal some parts of their personality
  • Thoughts: what they think about themselves and others
  • Appearance: both their personal appearance and their living space or surroundings can reveal personality
Showing Characters Through Action
Showing Characters Through Action mushedup88

Showing Characters Through Action

Showing the ways your characters act is a fundamental way to develop them in your story.

Whether they fight others or sit back when something intense happens, whether they sand their ground or leave a difficult situation, you reveal a lot about who they are.

The ways in which the act can directly alleviate or create further conflict, propelling your story forward.

Showing Characters Through Reaction
Showing Characters Through Reaction Weird Tales, Inc.

Showing Characters Through Reaction

The ways your characters react to those around them can help to develop your characters into real, complex individuals.

When one character says or does something, another character's reactions can effectively characterize both of them.

How will your characters react in a crisis? When they are afraid or angry? Think about the different emotions that they have to deal with and try to determine how they will react and why.

Showing Characters Through Dialogue
Showing Characters Through Dialogue Selena Wilke

Showing Characters Through Dialogue

At the beginning of your story, dialogue may not reveal much about the character's deeper motives, strengths or weaknesses.

However, dialogue can reveal their surface personality and provide a window into their basic characteristics.

Do your characters speak clearly or with slang? Do they have an accent? Can you think of ways to show their motives, fears, ambitions or strengths through their dialogue?

Showing Characters Through Thoughts
Showing Characters Through Thoughts EnEdC

Showing Characters Through Thoughts

Thoughts can often reveal more about your characters than surface characteristics. Sometimes, they can even give insight into the character that they themselves do not even realize.

By showing who they are, and not who they think they are, you give your character the opportunity for self-discovery and an opportunity to grow, to change, and to improve.

Showing Characters Through Appearance
Showing Characters Through Appearance Belovodchenko Anton

Showing Characters Through Appearance

Appearance is one aspect that can either work for or against your characters.

If you do it well, you can surprise and entice readers. but if your characters fall into a particular stereotype, readers can be misled. One way to avoid that pitfall is to characterize the character through something they can control.

Their clothing, style, their surroundings or living space can all be ways to reveal personality.

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