Let’s Talk Character Development

When I first started writing novels in 1994 I was not thinking about things such as character development. When I wrote my very first novel which was a romance novel titled Forbidden Fruit. Yeah, I know that title is ridiculous. Stop laughing. Anyway, I would just sit down and start writing. I didn’t even do an outline. I’m surprised I managed to actually finish it. It was shorter than your average novel, only one hundred and fifty pages I think. But what can I say? I was just learning how to write a novel. It wasn’t bad for my first try and the public will never see it because I lost the floppy disk that it was saved on. I know there’s a word you don’t hear anymore. We haven’t used floppy disks in years. All I have is the printed version.

My characters were not as fully developed as they should’ve been in my past unpublished novels and the reason why is because I did not know how to take the time to fully develop each character. Today I make an outline before I write a book and closely examine each character’s personality traits for the story. Sometimes I actually forget to do that with all of the characters. But it is very important if you want your characters to be more realistic. When you read a book you want to be able to find something in the character’s personalities that you can relate to. Things that stand out such as whether they chain smoke or drink heavily, whether they like a certain type of woman or man and personal habits that they may have. Everyone has a different way of doing things and your characters should be the same way. They have to be like real people. If they aren’t the characters will seem boring and you will not care what happens to them. You will most likely stop reading the book, put it back on the shelf and never read it again.

Your characters are your babies and you have to literally play god when creating them. You give them life so they have to have a personality and a purpose for that life. They have to have desires and fears, problems and of course, their lives have to have some amount of drama. They can’t be too perfect either otherwise you will not be able to relate to them. I’m going to give you an example of a character that is too perfect. Rey from the film Star Wars the Force Awakens. She was a lovely girl who just seemed to know how to do everything and although I love this character, I would probably be annoyed by her if she were my friend. Nobody likes a perfect person who never does anything wrong. I relate better to character flaws because I have flaws. Everyone does. Rey had no flaws and that is very irritating from an artistic standpoint.

In order to write a good story, you have to pay close attention to detail and your characters should be your main focus. You only need to do this with your main characters. If a certain character is just passing through the story than it’s not necessary to tell what his hopes, fears, and dreams are. The main characters are the main focus so pick them apart and decide what part each character will play in the story’s development. It could be two characters or it could be five.

Figure out what kind of personality traits will be needed in order for them to reach whatever goal they have to reach before the end of the story. It’s also fun to add dimension to your character’s personality traits, for example, A man named Michael is the main character. He’s the hero and has to save a girl he likes from the villain and although he has great and honest intentions, he secretly wants to have mind blowing sex with this girl even though he’s not anywhere near falling in love with her. He just thinks she’s hot. And she’s very sweet and innocent so he has to be careful of how he looks at her or touches her because the slightest intensity of closeness or feelings on her part can cause him to be tempted to take advantage of her and ruin their friendship. Which is something he does not want to do. So he comically tries everything he can to avoid any physical contact or affection with her when she is constantly touching him or trying to hug him. It is important not to make your main characters one dimensional. They should be multidimensional so that we can feel something for these characters whether it be empathy, sadness or just pure hatred. Or maybe even all three.

I am going to take my own advice here and work harder on character development for the sake of my own future works and I hope that it better enhances my stories as it will yours. I love my characters so much and I don’t even like killing them off. You can actually get attached to your characters because you created them and gave them a life, a personality, and a purpose so they expect you to really make them shine in whatever story arc you place them in. Treat your characters as if they were real people. Because in the reader’s mind they become real. Until next time.