[Here is an encore post, based on an excerpt from my Editor Devil's Guide to Dialogue book...]
is the painting of a character in a story through narrative, dialogue and
action. Done well, the character will come to life on the page as if they are a
Done poorly, and the author has succeeded in creating
cardboard. And the reader will never forget it.
As Noah Lukeman puts it
in his book, The Plot Thickens, "...character is the basis for all further talk
of journey, conflict, suspense—and is the cornerstone of
Characterization is achieved by the author through the careful
delivery of external (descriptions of how the character looks, walks, drinks
their coffee) and internal information (how they act in any given situation, who
they interact with, the decisions they make, the decisions they don’t make).
Note that these do not break down the same as internal and external
Nouns and verbs chosen for dialogue directly affect the
intensity of tone and the reader's perception of the character. These words can
reveal whether the character is dominant or submissive, passionate or
Also, the choppiness of dialogue sentences and whether the
character speaks complete sentences may tell the character’s attitude or even
education level. Consider how terse dialogue is spoken by a character who is
combative, how sensitive phrases might be used by a care-taking character. Doing
the reverse can be even more interesting. Consider how jokes from a bank robber
make his/her character more interesting.
Remember: In fiction, what a character says IS who they are. Even and especially when the character is lying.