By the end of the story, the author has brought the reader to impact, and character actions and dialogue will have few if any options.  The character is so well formed, so deeply engrained in the reader, that the important late happenings—so crucial for meaning—must be reasonable for the character, even though the reader might not have anticipated them.


Feeling, or emotion, is the prime tool of fiction.  So expression of feelings is a key skill for the writer.  The paradox is that erroneous expression of feelings can lead to sentimentality, and, at worst, rejection of the story.

Feelings in a story can be told.  “He was angry with her and told her so in a loud voice.”

Although necessary at times, this telling of emotions tires the reader rapidly.  It lacks energy.  But the author can show feeling through action and dialogue, although it is much more strenuous and time consuming for the author.  For example, “You are the worst degenerate I’ve ever known.” The dialogue here seems angry and hints that the anger is over a morality issue— interesting!

Feelings, too, must be toned to the character and the moment.  Even slight inappropriateness will erode the reader’s trust in the author to tell a good story.

For most effective expression of feelings, abstractions such as love, anger, pity or hate should be used with caution, and the emotion the character experiences should be expressed with concrete words and actions.  For example, what do characters in love do? They have funny sensations under their sternums, they have more awareness of their heart-actions, their minds get clouded with details of the persons they love and they can’t think about usual things.  In essence, there is more impact to know love through actions–and words—than in naming the emotion.  This is difficult to do because the descriptions of people in love are limited, and an author is always bordering on cliché.  But the work to find the fresh descriptions right for the story is well worth the quality it provides for character development and plot vitality.

Every author must develop his or her own sensibilities about when feelings help the story.  Character feelings are integrated with plot action in tasteful ways, and choices should be made that suit the reader who is best suited to enjoy the story.  This is not just style-varnish; this is the essence of good writing.


* Characters are developed by action and reaction, dialogue, internal reflection, rhetorical question, emotions, diction (choice of words and context), narrative, exposition, integration with setting and description of scene, author’s familiarity with the character’s story line, back story, and other techniques unique to specific authors and particular stories.

* Desires must be internally powerful in order to force unavoidable action.

* Actions should convey character emotion for maximum effect.

* Throughout the story, characterization must be continuously and seamlessly layered on, and must be true, interesting and dynamic.

* Characters must be in conflict.

* One-character scenes are rarely, if ever, effective.