Character Development

There are A LOT of posts, tips, etc. out there about character development. You need to know such in such about your character, you need to know their quirks, you need to know their backstories, so on and so forth.

So why do we STILL get dry characters?

It's probably because we aren't getting far enough inside the characters' head.
Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash


Obviously it's important to know what your character looks like, what their name is, their backstory. That's o.k. This is your foundation, right? How else would we form characters in the first place?

However, this is not enough. We need to dig deeper, and that is where it gets gritty.

So consider...

  • We need the characters to be real. This means more than just their height, weight, quirks, personality and muscle structure. We have to go much deeper than that, I'm afraid.
    • What are their motivations? WHY do they do what they do? What are their beliefs?
    • What are they afraid of? What are their deepest fears? What can they handle? How far can you push them? 
    • What are their desires? Are these desires understandable in relation to the character and his/her status? 
    • How does that character relate to their world? 
  • Readers need to be able to empathize. The best characters are the ones that are relate-able. This is hard for the authors. We want to put our heart and soul into our work, but we need to make the readers care. Everyone gets bored with a character that they don't care about. 
    •  It matters to us, obviously, so how do we make it matter to them (the readers) ?
    • Will it matter if this character lives or dies? 
  • Characteristic Ups and Downs. There is nothing more boring than a blank slate. Now obviously, we don't need to put tons of thought and detail into "background figures" that say a few lines and fade out of the story. But this is SO IMPORTANT for your leads, and your supporting roles as well. 
    • What are their worst moments? Their best moments? 
    • Are they supposed to get gradually better or worse throughout the story? And what prompts that? 
    • When is their most defining moment? And at what point are they in their life (mentally, spiritually, physically) when they entire the story? What about when the story ends? 
Everything Won't Always Be Blatantly Presented...
What we authors can NOT do (even though we are very often driven to do...) is thrust every tiny little thing at the reader. We can't just go ahead and tell the reader. If you have a truly well-developed character, these deep things about them will become evident through your writing as the story progresses. It becomes a subtle but consistent prodding in the reader's mind so that they recognize this about the character without HAVING to be told so.

It's an interesting concept, but there it is.  

Shallow Characters can turn a beautiful novel into a long, pointless sort of dragging walk. This can also be a source of writer's block, plot holes and much more. 

Strong Characters make good stories great. These are our "literary saints." 

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"If you're struggling with writing a character, write down twenty things that the reader will never know. These will naturally bleed into your writing and provide a richness even though you don't share the detail." -Barbara Poelle 


Let's Chat! 
1. What do you think is important thing in character development? 
2. Who are some of your all-time favorite characters? Who do you think is an excellent example of a well-developed character? 


Comments

  1. (BTW, I love your 'let's chat' sections)
    I think that the most important thing in character development is to have the characters crash and burn. I say this because in some new author's stories, the characters just kind of plod along. Sure, some bad stuff happens to them once and a while, but nothing truly pushes them to their limit.
    My all-time favorite character is Edmond from the Chronicles of Narnia, with Eustace running a close second. Again I think that Edmond is a great example of a well-developed character.

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    Replies
    1. (Yeah, I try to use the "let's chat!" to prompt comments. Lol). Yes! I absolutely agree that characters should be pushed to their limits. I always find those characters to be the richest and the ones I really carry with me.
      O.K. EDMOND IS SO UNDERAPPRECIATED. The character development in that was the BEST! Especially seeing the way he moves from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, through Prince Caspian and all the way to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He was done SO WELL all.the.way.through.

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  2. (Wow, you have some excellent tips!)
    I believe that every character should "grow up" in some sort of way throughout the story. At the beginning they start out kind of basic, but you notice certain qualities develop and certain parts of their personalities mature and change.
    My favorite well-developed characters are the Wealsey Twins and Hagrid from the Harry Potter series because even though they are side characters, there is a lot of depth in their personalities. Edmund and Eustace from the Narnia series run in second.

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    1. Thank you! And yes, I agree. The character should sorta grow up through the story. I think it adds a deeper connection too. And I absolutely think that the Weasley twins, Hagrid, Edmund and Eustace are fabulous examples. I think Neville Longbottom was pretty well developed too and definitely did some growing up during the series . :)

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    2. Oh yes, Neville Longbottom is great! I loved watching him grow up.

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