Developing Characters in Scenes



Developing Characters in Scenes

Most scenes involve characters. Writer’s can develop characters more effectively in fiction and non-fiction using a few simple techniques used by many professional writers.

Below is an example from Caleb Carr that uses a combination of different techniques to develop the image of the narrator’s grandmother in this excerpt from


Alienest :

Back in the hallway I ran headlong into my grandmother, her silver hair perfectly coiffed, her grey and black dress unimpeachably neat, and her grey eyes, which I had inherited, glaring. “John!” she said in surprise, as if ten other men were staying in her who. “Who in the world was on the telephone?”

“Dr Kreizler, Grandmother,” I said, bounding up the stairs.

“Dr Kreizler!” she called after me. “Well, dear! I’ve had about enough of that Dr. Kreizler for one day!” As I closed the door of my bedroom and began to dress, I could still hear her: “If you ask me, he’s awfully peculiar! And I don’t put much stock in his being a doctor, either. That Holmes man was a doctor, too!”

She stayed in that vein while I washed, shaved, and scrubbed my teeth with

Sozodont. (Carr 26)

Which of the techniques below does Carr employ in the passage above?

Character Development


By action of the character: Pete slunk out of the battle.


By speech of the character: “Hiya, pardner!”


By effect of the character upon other characters: Her loveliness was breath-taking.


By the character’s own reactions to persons, things, and surrounding circumstances: John adored her, especially in blue.


By reporting what other characters say about the character: Said Tom, “of course

Sam is a heel!”


By explaining the traits and motives o the character: He loved good food.


By describing the character in terms of the fives senses: He had blue eyes, spoke with a Southern accent, smelled of the smokehouse, and his muscles were hard as nails.


By analyzing the psychological processes of the character: He was unable to overcome his shyness, which was the result of his being the son of a famous and terribly egotistical father.