How To Develop A Good Character

How To Develop A Good Character

“Love and intent are the very soul of the deed or work. It forms its own body in the honest and fair things that we do. This is the sole source of our spiritual body, the body of our spirit; that is, our spiritual body is formed entirely from what we have done out of love or intent… In a word, everything of our character and our spirit is [embodied] in our works and deeds.”
– Emanuel Swedenborg

Every good character begins with an intention. This is because who a character really is, is his intention.

The 17th Century Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg once said that who we really are is our intention. We’re not the superficial qualities we display so that people may like us or treat us better. We are not the persona we sometimes taken on when we are trying to look good in the eyes of our bosses, our neighbors, or the people we’re currently crushing on.

No, we are not who we appear to be–we are who we intend to be.

Swedenborg goes even so far as to say that not only are we our intentions, but in fact, our spirit, the very core of who we are, is made up entirely of our intention. We are not just led by our secret, internal motivations, we are these motivations themselves.

How To Develop A Good Character

When writing a good character, it is best to start with the character’s intention, ask yourself: what is he (or she) really after in the story?

Once you figure that out, you can give the character certain behaviors that mask those intentions, and then allow the other characters to be fooled by those false behaviors; or allow those other characters to eventually uncover that character’s true intentions. This is what creates good drama and some very intriguing characters.

Now, when developing a good character for yourself, in real life, it is also good to start with your intention. Who are you really behind all those things you only “pretend” to be? Is there someone you are “faking it” for?

For instance, are you pretending to love children because you don’t want your mother to feel disappointed because she’ll uncover that you are secretly planning to live a perfectly happy childless life, and your mother will have to confront the fact that she’ll never have the grandchildren she so desperately wants? Are you pretending to love your girlfriend when really the feeling is gone, and you’re just holding on because you don’t want to hurt her feelings–or you’re afraid you won’t find anyone else who could love you as much as she does? Are you holding on to a fiction story you started to develop in childhood, and promised yourself you would finish one day, even though now, in adulthood, you’re finding this fiction story lacking in any true meaning or passion for you?

Who are you faking it for? In what areas in your life are you playing “the pretender”?

Before you can develop a good character, you must examine the ways in which you are putting on a “show” for others. Realize that by putting on this show, you’re not revealing your true intentions, and therefore, you’re not really being you. By not being you, you are creating great confusion for yourself and for everyone around you. There has been, thus far, a huge disconnect between what others expect of you and what you expect of yourself. This might have made you angry and frustrated so far, but now that you realize that the reason for this is because you’ve only been pretending, you might see that this anger and frustration has been partly created by you.

To explain: by masking your true intentions, you have created a “cloud of lies” around you and this has made it difficult for others (and you) to really connect with the true you. This has often led to people to being disappointed in you when you think that they shouldn’t, or people misunderstanding you when you think they should, or even people relying on you in ways that you may find surprising because they perceive you in a certain way that isn’t really who you are.

You would do yourself and others a world of good if you started to reveal your true intentions to others. Not only will this relieve you of the stress and pressure of trying to hold up this fake “persona,” but it will also make people love and trust in you even more.

This is because, the more you reveal your true intentions, the more you reveal who you truly are. Because you are never who you “pretend” to be, you are only who you intend to be.

much intentional love,


Today’s Courage Exercise
In your writing: examine a character in your novel who is not who she intends to be. Write out what her true intentions are and then write out what she does to mask those true intentions. Then, write a scene in your novel in which this character’s true intentions are revealed to the rest of your characters.
In your life: examine all the relationships you currently have. Identify one relationship you have been “faking it” for. It might be your mother, your boss, a co-worker, a friend, a love interest. This week, for the first time, be honest in this relationship. Reveal to them your true intentions. Yes, there may be consequences from this big reveal, but know that you will feel much better and much more freer afterward; and, what’s more, the other person will have the benefit of seeing who you really are for the first time, and this will either break the bond or deepen it. In the end, the both of you are better off knowing where things actually stand, then continuing your mutual suffering by prolonging a lie.

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Categories: Writer's Journal