CharactersNovel writing

Creating dynamic characters

From Rick:

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Martin Cavanaugh of Reedsy (a UK-based site) in response to the first post in my Book Cover Design-Series 2 (the link to that post is below).


Martin had written the article I cited in that post and he wanted to let me know that, although I did not completely agree with his post, my comment that authors should take a shot a cover design did make him think. (I had disagreed with his contention that authors should never design their own covers.) He brought up some valid points in response that I’ll probably share in my next Cover Design post.

Another reason Martin wrote to me was to share a new article he’d just published on creating dynamic characters. He wanted to know if I’d be willing to share it here. After reading the article, I had absolutely no qualms about doing so. It’s a superb article, and the comic book infographic accompanying it is informative and well done. (I wish I had the artistic talent to do that kind of infographic.)

This is one of the best articles I’ve seen on the subject of character creation because it brings together TWO important elements of any good fiction that I’ve talked about previously.

The first element is creating INTERESTING (meaning memorable and compelling) CHARACTERS.

The second element is CONFLICT in the main character(s). Story conflict (or lack thereof) was the subject of my March 13 post: THE #1 WRITING MISTAKE

It’s certainly possible to create a compelling story without dynamic characters, but the storyline itself and the conflict have to be that much more compelling to make up for the absence of the strong characters. Likewise, great characters with a weak story and with little conflict won’t take you too far.

We can all think of novels or movies where the characters OR the conflict (but not both) was so strong that the other mattered less. For example, a lot of early (1950s and 1960s) science fiction focused on concepts and often had weak or forgettable characters. The story in the Harry Potter novels is without a doubt excellent, but having memorable, dynamic characters pulls us into the story to a greater degree. Readers get more involved with stories where they become attached to the characters. And don’t forget that the bad guys need to be dynamic as well. In Harry Potter, think about all of the characters that you love to hate. This makes us root for the good guys even more.

So, with that introduction out of the way, here’s the link to Martin Cavanaugh’s important and highly accessible article. It brings together a lot of good information. I strongly advise you to read it, even if you think you already know it.




The article makes a very important point by saying: IN THE ABSENCE OF CONFLICT YOU HAVE NO STORY (or at best a weak one).


One example of the latter that comes to mind is the first Star trek movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That movie received a lot of criticism in part because the Star Trek characters that fans had come to love in the original series were given second chair to the sweeping story line. It wasn’t a bad story; it just wasn’t the Star Trek than fans knew.

Filmmakers learned their lesson and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan corrected that mistake. The successes of the movies and several TV series that followed resulted from having dynamic characters. (If you’re not a Star Trek fan and are unfamiliar enough with it, you can probably come up with examples of your own of story at the expense of dynamic characters.)

Sign up for the Reedsy newsletter and check out their website:


NOTE: Reedsy is NOT a Vanity Press or a publisher. It is a professional and commercial site that offers articles and tutorials, and is a place where authors can find services and vetted professionals (editors, cover designers, marketers, etc.) to assist them with self-publishing and marketing their books. This should not be taken as an endorsement of Reedsy’s services but as a link for you to check out and evaluate on your own.


One thought on “Creating dynamic characters

  • Totally love Reedsy and Martin Cavanaugh sending emails of upcoming webinars. These have helped me so much! There’s always room for improvement regarding any artform we embrace!
    God Bless you, Martin…
    And all the help you’ve sent my way!

    Have an Amazing weekend!


    Mary Carpenter Nolan

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