About Characterization. . .

~ By Mellanie Szereto

I love stories with three-dimensional characters, both main and secondary. They draw me into the story, and I’m invested in their journeys. What makes a fully developed character?


Yes, the reader should have a general idea of the character’s physical traits, but I don’t necessarily mean a specific height, weight, eye color, and hair color rundown. Unless he/she is being described for a police report, these characteristics should be worked in without making the description obvious.

Just as important as what the character looks like is how her life experience has influenced who she is, how she interacts with others, her mannerisms, etc.—personality traits. They help readers get a better sense of who the character is and why.

Some examples:

The hero might crack his knuckles as he watches the heroine talk and laugh with a guy he doesn’t know. Rather than saying he’s worried or nervous he might have competition for her attention, the action shows his nervousness and anxiety. It can be a habit he’s trying to break.

four people next to each other (heads and feet not visible)If the heroine grew up in a bad neighborhood, she might use a swagger and nasty attitude to cover her fears. Give her a smart mouth and great dialogue but vulnerable internal dialogue to turn her into a sympathetic character.

Make a secondary character memorable by making that great aunt feisty and outspoken, or the shy little sister can have a gift with abused animals.

The little things your characters do and say give the reader deeper insight into their strengths and weaknesses. They encourage a deeper connection and make the reader more invested in the story. Remember that showing is more effective than telling. Make your readers love (or hate) your characters by making them real.

* What are your tips for characterization? *

When her fingers aren’t attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of thirty-one years and their son. She is a 2016 recipient of the RWA Service Award, RWA Chapter Advisor, and a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers.

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