Here is an encore post from my character development book:
Characterization 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 real person.
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 plot..."
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 dialogue.
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 caretaking
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 they say IS who they are. Even and especially when the character is lying.