Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ways to Reveal Character

Hey all,
In Medved's fiction course we are compiling a list of ways to reveal character without using exposition. I am providing what we have so far for you to use as a tool but to also get new suggestions, let me know what you think.

Ways to Reveal Character without Boring Exposition:

Have your character make a list. Whether it be a “To Do” list or shopping list, whatever…what the character puts on the list and even the type of list the character chooses to create speaks much about their personality and background.

Action. What your characters does reflects on where they’re at emotionally in moment of the story AND can convey where they come from because our actions are defined by a combination of previous experience and current motivations/situations.

Perception of the characters physicality. The example used was how Holden Caulfield is always going on and on about his gray hair. What does a character notice about themselves? And, how do others react to their physical characteristics.

Observations of other people. How your character views others around him/her can help to define who they are themselves.

Routines. What sorts of daily events or even traditions does your character observe?

Identification with cultural elements. If your character is relating to an element in the world around them like a television character or even a new culture how they are relating/not-relating to these external elements will speak much as to who they are.

(I am posting this to count for Andrea's post, as she is super busy doing design I told her I would put up a post in her honour)


  1. Thanks, Emily! This is actually really helpful. I've never taken the time to explicitly draw up a list of Ways to Reveal Character without Boring Exposition -- so I'm glad someone's thought to do that for me.

    Three extra suggestions for your list:

    1. DREAMS. Giving the reader a peek into a character's subconscious reveals tons...

    2. GOSSIP. What are people saying about your character behind his/her back? Also -- how does your character respond to hearing gossip about others?


    3. THE DRUNKEN MONOLOGUE. Self-explanatory. (And, erm, well known to all those who were in attendance at hippie commune night...)

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  3. Definitely useful things to keep in mind; I'd add dialogue as a very useful tool to reveal character too. What a character says/doesn't say in specific situations, and how she interacts with others can be very telling.