Characterization: Journey to Awareness

By Gail Gaymer Martin

Every novel moves the main characters toward growth on their journey from unawareness to awareness. This happens in any genre from suspense to romance. And it happens in real life. We all make mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them.  So do all the main characters in a novel when they are confronted with a situation or an individual whose demands cause opposition that results in change.

Change can be positive or negative. Negative change creates doubt, discouragement or anger while positive change results in understanding or confidence through evaluation, new perception, and decisions. Weighing and judging new evidence provides wiser choices as characters face their weaknesses or deficiencies within their own thought processes or abilities.

The character’s past strengths and weaknesses can be reevaluated and understood, giving options for how the character might succeed or fail in putting two and two together. This helps wiser choices to be applied to the situation they face.

In life and in fiction, sometimes growth is a pattern of failure and success. Success can be achieved when a character digs deep inside to evaluate those patterns by organizing and evaluating what has been learned and then chooses the best answer to his dilemma. When a character ignores a friend’s warning about a bad investment or ignores a job offer that sounds questionable, the character faces a loss. If this happens, he can learn from the mistake and realize that not listening results in consequences. Next time a friend’s warning will have greater value and can result in a wiser decision. This means the character’s journey moves from unawareness to growth and progress and then awareness.

Still some character may have to ignore numerous warnings before he faces his weakness, the inability to weigh and judge choices wisely. This can add conflict to a novel by two partners or friends dealing with this issue when the result affects them both.

By understanding the process of growth through understanding the positive and negative attitudes and the abilities of a character, authors can use this knowledge to deepen the characterization of the individuals in the story and add realism and anxiety for the reader.

In your next novel, challenge characters by overlooking or ignoring other’s knowledge and have them act on their ignorance. When they admit mistakes, gain awareness and grow, the change will add credence to the characterization and the reality of the story.

© Gail Gaymer Martin 2015

Question: In what way have you allowed your characters to make mistakes and then face their errors and grow as a person? Share your thoughts in the comments.


gailmartinMulti-award-winning novelist Gail Gaymer Martin writes Christian women’s fiction, romance and romantic suspense. Gail has six-three published novels with four million books sold. She is the author of Writers Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a keynote speaker at churches, libraries and writers organizations, and presents workshops at conference across the US. She was named one of the four best novelists in the Detroit area by CBS local news. She lives with her husband in a northwest Detroit suburb. Her latest novel is Romance By Design released by Winged Publications. Visit her website at

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