A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post on developing characters – a.k.a my favorite part of writing! They are the core of any novel. If your character can’t win the hearts of readers, chances are the readers won’t read his or her story.
Creating interesting characters, however, can be tough. And every writer develops their characters differently, which is why I asked my friend and fellow blogger, Abigayle from The Left-Handed Typist, to share her thoughts on how to create great characters.
Without further ado, here’s Abi!
Hello, everyone! I am so happy to be doing a guest post for Madison today! One of the most important elements of your story is having strong characters. Unfortunately, while they can be born overnight, they need time to grow just like real people do. These are some ways I help develop my characters. 🙂
I have found that one of the most important things to do before planning a character is to know their environment. That seems reasonable enough, doesn’t it? Well, what this means for me is that I have to conceptualize a basicplot with a beginning, climax, goal, and ending. While it may seem like a lot of unnecessary, preparatory work, it will save you time in the end. Imagine having to rewrite a character because all the sudden the plot is going somewhere they wouldn’t. Oops.
The first thing I always do when I actually get to brainstorming a character is decide what they are going to look like. Appearance is so important! I think it’s even more important in a novel, because, unlike a movie, you can’t take it all in at once. Instead you get to feed it to the reader gradually. Still, appearance is rarely a conscious decision, as a character usually comes to me with a face. However, you would not believe how smart it is to write all the details of that image down. I can never keep the eye colors of my characters straight! In fact, that is one of the key things I do: write it down. This may be even more important to do with characters who are less prominent. They may need a defining feature to stand out in the reader’s mind and you’ll want to write that down, too.
The next thing I need to consider is personality. While some characters come in a package deal and never need much thoughtful development, that is rarely the case with a main character. Main characters need special attention and love. One of the best things I have found to make myself form the person before sticking them in testing situations is to answer a series of questions. Character charts can be very helpful for this (Google fictional character charts), as can putting your character through the Meyers-Briggs personality test. I like to be prepared before I start writing. 😉
After this basic development, I have to throw my character into the playing field. However, I like to be somewhat of a plotter. So, I give characters tests in my head. I try them out in scenes I’ve come up with and go through it all a million different ways until I’m comfortable with how each character responds and takes action. I’ve been complimented for having such solid first drafts. That is because they are the first written drafts. Every major scene has passed at least a dozen drafts in my head. I find that the most natural time to do this for me is at night when I should be sleeping instead of directing my mental novel film. Don’t ever pass by the chance to try it out when you’re in the perfect environment, even if it does mean trying out the different reactions on your face . . . in public. You know it’s worth it!
It is only at this point that I feel any character auditioning to be my lead lord or lady has the right to appear in my first draft. Now, for those of you who like to jump in cold turkey (pantsers), don’t worry! I have never known anyone to be able to start a story without an idea of what it’s about and who’s in it. Even if you don’t realize it, your brain has probably already decided on appearance, personality, and the like. I just like to go over it intentionally before I get started. If your characters form better under the pressure of your pen than the command of your brain, that’s perfectly fine. Do what you need to do. The point is that at the end of the day, you have a character that has formed into someone strong, unique, and impressive at the expense of your toil and tears. If your current method isn’t working for you, get creative! Maybe you need to just jump in, or maybe some more planning would benefit you.
How do you create strong characters?
Thank you, Abi, for the wonderful tips!! And for being my first ever guest writer! *squeals* Be sure to check out her blog, The Left-Handed Typist, to read more of her posts.