Write a Book with Me

6 Questions to Ask that Will Help with Character Development (Plus Newsletter and Hiatus Announcements) // Write a Book with Me Episode Three

Heya, TWNers! Wow, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted over here! In truth, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and as the title of today’s post is suggesting, I’m gonna need to take a break. But before I get into that, I wanted to let y’all know some exciting news! It’s taken me long enough, but I’ve FINALLY started up a newsletter!!!! I started it back in January but am just now getting to announce it over here! For anyone wishing to follow me on my writing journey outside of Teen Writers’ Nook, this is one of the best options as I will be sending emails once every month with updates on writing & life. I’m still working through everything I wish to do with my newsletter, but I do hope it will be a fun place where I will get to share more insider information. Newsletter subscribers will often be the first to hear about upcoming news and will be able to participate in exclusive giveaways. I’m calling it Vintagely Izzy and if you’d like to join in on the ride, you can subscribe right here!!! 

Now as for my second announcement, it is true that I am going to go on a semi-hiatus for the month of March. I hope to be back come April, but this could extend for the first couple of weeks of April. The reason is that I have finally stuck myself on a deadline to have the first draft of Project: Believer completed by Easter, and I have fallen terribly behind this last month so I need to spend some time just dedicated to it. And after a day of school, I don’t have the mental energy to do both a blog post and work in my novel. However, this is not a FULL hiatus as I hope to still be active in the blogosphere and posting on my personal blog. Also, Teen Writers’ Nook is NOT going on hiatus! Post will still be coming your way from Katherine, and I hope to get several guest posters on to fill in my place. My goal is that when I come back, I’ll not only have project: believer completed or nearly finished, but I’ll also have posts written in advance, that way I can actually stick to my schedule of posting every Friday!! 

But I’m not gone yet, and I’m excited to pick back up in the Write a Book with Me series! If you missed episode one about researching and episode two about the one question every writer should be able to answer, you can go back and check those out!! For episode three, I am going to be covering character development! This is honestly one of my FAVORITE steps in the process because it’s a chance to just get creative and really dive into your characters!! They are the cornerstone of every novel. Every. Single. Choice. you make for your WIP will always center around them. You can’t tell a story without them. 

What does your character want and what does he need?

As discussed in episode two, it is important to know what your character’s deepest desire is. Why is he doing what he is doing? What is he chasing after? Why should we follow this specific character on this specific journey? People don’t just take risks for the sake of taking them, and they don’t just join in on the story because the author needs him/her too.

There must be something that is driving your character forward into the plot. It could be to save a sibling, survive a challenge, defeat a repressive regime, or something as simple as going to college, publishing a novel, or finding true love. Whatever it is, try to make it specific, personable, and something your character can realistically set out to achieve

In addition, it’s important to know what your character needs. Oftentimes, your character will start out the book thinking he knows what will truly make him happy (the character goal) only to come to the end to realize what he needed was something entirely different. Take Fawkes by Nadine Brandes for example. What our main character Thomas wants is to be respected and loved by his father, but what he needs is to make his own choices about life and not just follow along with whatever society or his father dictates just because he’s trying to appease people who are impossible to please.

What does your character believe about himself and/or the world that is not true?

This often is referred to as the Character Lie. Oftentimes, this will be intertwined with the story’s overall theme. For instance, your character may believe that he has made too many mistakes and is unloveable. The result? He has cut himself off from the world and has major trust issues. Throughout the story, he will then have to learn that his worth is not based in past mistakes, and that it’s never too late to start anew.

  • Pro tip: Understand WHY your character believes what he believes. Is it because of past circumstances? Was he bullied as a child? A parent walk out and abandon him at a young age? Thought he was in a committed relationship only to have his girlfriend walk out on him because she didn’t find him attractive anymore? Now’s the time to brainstorm!!

What outward trait sets your character apart from others?

By this, I don’t mean physical traits. I’m talking about character quirks, interests, career, all the little details that make him different from every other fictional character we read. The odd habits that only your character does or interesting hobbies. The thing that makes him unique. This is important to know because oftentimes it can change how he sees and interacts with the world. A photographer? Maybe he always notices picture-worthy moments. Writer? He may always be carrying around a notebook. Actress? We could be having a drama queen on our hands! 

What are your character’s strengths and flaws?

Every good character has strengths and weaknesses. Your character might be fiercely loyal to his closest friends but rude to strangers down the street. He could be independent but also controlling. He could be kind but greedy. And the list goes on and on and on. Two things to keep in mind: (1) You don’t want your character to be too perfect. 

(2) But also make sure that the flaws are realistic. Things such as shyness and clumsiness aren’t flaws. But arrogance? Being demanding or ungrateful? Selfishness or a tendency to lie or being disloyal? Those are real flaws that can hinder your character on his journey. Get creative!

What is your character’s personality?

This is important to know in understanding how your character interacts with the people around him. Is he extroverted or introverted? Bold or shy? A rambler or more introspective? If there’s one thing that irritates readers it’s when the protagonist acts out of character. Now, I can’t vouch for every author, but I know for me, when this happens in my writing, it’s because I never took the time to understand my character’s personality to begin with.

You have to know your character down to the tiniest detail. You must know how he will talk with others, react in stressful situations, handle pressure or crowds or annoying family members even! Your character has to feel real and real people don’t suddenly act 180% different from their personality because it suits the plot. 

Where has your character come from?

Ah, backstory. One of my favorite parts of writing! It’s so much fun to just dig deep into your character, learn where he’s come from and where he’s going. Your character didn’t just randomly appear one day because the novel’s opening line appeared. He’s had journeys and struggles, tears and joy, love and heartbreak, he’s been through life before. Now your character doesn’t always need some tragic, tear-jerker childhood story, but it can be helpful to know the character’s backstory. Sometimes there might be a moment where something reminds him of a childhood story or maybe an event in the past has left him with a deep-rooted fear, either rational or irrational. These little details add depth to your character. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! You can never know your character too much so spend some time just getting to know them. You can fill out character profiles or interview your character. You can try to write diary entries of important events from your character’s perspective. This is the time to have fun and really dive into your story. Because once you have nailed a strong character, you are that must closer to mastering the art of writing. That’s my challenge for you today!

Now, let’s chat in the comments below: Does your character have a quirk? What’s your favorite way to brainstorm ideas for your character? If you have any questions about developing your character, drop them below.

Until the next post,

Issabelle Perry

Issabelle Perry is a proud Jesus follower, an extroverted writer, and a homeschool graduate. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, jamming to Skillet, studying history, hunting for Narnia in wardrobes, or envisioning herself wielding a magnificent sword (but due to her clumsiness, let’s hope that never happens). This self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast can be found hanging out at Teen Writers’ Nook, a community of teen authors Issabelle co-founded in 2020. She is the author of Don't Let Me Go (Sky's the Limit Press 2024), May We Make Them Proud (2023), and a co-editor for two anthologies. What she’s probably doing right now is fangirling about her favorite books to random people or scanning the pantries for chocolate.


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