EDITING: Characters

Believability

  1. Are they three-dimensional?
  2. Do they have a past and a present?
  3. Can the reader imagine a future for them?
  4. Do they have faults and good qualities?
  5. Do they have flaws that are not easily fixed?
  6. Does the protagonist have several strong traits and one major glaring weakness?
  7. Does the glaring weakness form the underlying tension for the protagonist and drive his behavior?
  8. Can the characters be seen clearly?
  9. Are full descriptions of the major characters given?
  10. Do the minor characters have a special characteristic that makes them seem real?
  11. Is the protagonist’s commitment to his goal believable?
  12. Are the characters’ emotions shown?
  13. Are the character’s quirks consistent throughout the story?
  14. Does the protagonist appear to be stronger and smarter than the villain?

Villain (antagonist)

  1. Is there something about the villain that charms or entices people?
  2. Is he/she as strong as the hero?
  3. Is the villain credible, logical, and believable but not likeable?
  4. Is the villain more than just evil without enough depth of character for the reader to see him as real?
  5. Can the reader see inside the villain’s head to understand why he acts the way he does?
  6. Does the villain do something that is too over-the-top?
  7. Are the villain’s actions and logic perfectly justifiable to him?
  8. Is the villain strong enough to battle the hero?

Actions

  1. Do the characters act true to themselves?
  2. Is too much detail given in describing character actions?
  3. Does a character act “out of character”?
  4. Are characters reacting more than acting?
  5. Are all character actions and reactions motivated?
  6. Does each character reaction affect the character in some way?

Motivations

  1. Are the character motivations clear?
  2. Do things happen because the writer needs them to and not because the character needs them to?

General Issues

  1. Are the character names fitting and easily remembered by the reader?
  2. Are the characters introduced at the right time?
  3. Are all of the characters necessary with a purpose?
  4. Do character descriptions come naturally in dialogue or in action?
  5. Is the interior monologue realistic?
  6. Is too much time spent with minor characters?
  7. Do the characters express their feelings? Or are you, as the writer, telling what the character’s feelings are?
  8. Are the characters and their actions telling the story? Or is the writer stopping to bring the reader up to date with the storyline progress?
  9. Have characters been mentioned and then gone missing in the storyline?
  10. Are there too many characters on stage at one time?
  11. Are the protagonist and antagonist introduced in a way that makes a strong first impression on readers?
  12. Do the characters react to the turning point(s) in a believable manner?

Character Growth

  1. Does the protagonist grow through the story somehow?
  2. Has the protagonist undergone a fundamental change?
  3. Does the protagonist change his outlook on something, realize something about himself, or be moved to act in a way he wouldn’t have before?

The Smarts

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This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.