Writing – Are you putting enough thought into Developing Characters?

Sometimes it’s difficult to create characters in such a way as to make them individuals. Writers often want and need to give their characters the same qualities they have themselves.  It’s hard to develop a character when everything they believe and stand for is the opposite of your own opinion.

Often people who don’t read genre books fear that they will all be the same and pretty boring after a time.  But the truth is – a well written romance, mystery or fantasy is every bit as exciting to read as any classified ‘great’.  If you study those books you can see the character development is often the key to making it great.

You should develop your character using characteristics that they have, not what you feel yourself. Everyone is an individual. Using fear of flying as an example you would not have your character happily hopping onto a plane to get somewhere.  He/she will use whatever alternatives are available.  So if he/she drives and is an environmental advocate there is further conflict and further debate in the mind.  But what happens if he/she has to fly?  Then there should be a plausible explanation why or how he/she does it.  Each characteristic should be thought out carefully, then if faced with having to do it – there will have to be a good reason how he/she will accomplish that.

That is one way a writer can develop unique, individual characters.  It’s easier to do if you fear flying and much more difficult if you love flying.

One of the most effective ways for me is to imagine a debate team – pick a topic and then research arguments for both sides.  If someone is an environmental advocate and someone is working in the oil-field there is a conflict in characters and they can’t both have your own views. But using reason and common sense – you can see both sides. You now have two ‘individuals’ and your conflict as well.

Another method I use is to imagine something I fear and the feelings I get from that fear – then use my own feelings to make my character’s fear (which might be different) come to life.

If you are able to, submerse yourself and become your character and write your story. Role play.  Just remember to come back to reality when you’re finished.

I often find books where their characters just do what the author says they should, disregarding individual quirks and characteristics.

Fort MacLeod - Murphy hugs a horse

Beware you don’t make the same mistake.

Resources – Characterization

Every writer would love to create a memorable character.  Just think of a name – for example – Scarlet O’Hara; and most will immediately know who she is.  I learned much from studying other characters including Scarlet and noted immediately the changes and similarities in her character as she matured and circumstances changed her. Although she does do some good things, her childhood of being pampered shine through even as she becomes an adult.

1) Studying and learning the art of character development can be done through watching well-developed characters in movies and reading good books.  Even a bad movie or book is able to see what shouldn’t be done.Movie Reel

I recently tracked my ancestors. Their trek of hardships, persecution and success is on a website now called – The Miller Story.  I discovered another fascinating facet  for learning character development while working on this project.cottage

2) Observing and learning from your own friends and family can help create fascinating characters. You will see principals/integrity/characteristics and the way religion might play a part in character development in a very realistic, true manner.

Today, I have no idea whether I am getting old or the world is changing. If the world is changing I get a niggling fear inside as I think – I’m truly my mother now.  It can’t be possible. But when I watch the anger and hostility often displayed towards others with different opinions. I fear there is no tolerance left and there is a real push to make everyone think the same. That makes me truly sad. I imagine a time when I will pick up any book or watch any movie and will see the same people with the same reactions and beliefs; the same type of good guys and the same type of bad guys or an obscure line of being all the same.  Groundhog Day – move over.

3) Dare to be politically incorrect.  We are after-all, fortunate enough to live in a place where we have freedom of speech. We should never create a character just because he/she fits into the fads of today.  Dare to create a character who you may love or hate but definitely a memorable character regardless.  Dare to be different.

I recall a time in school where we often held debates with other schools.  The secret was to have two opposing views. It was a challenge when I had to debate realistically taking the side of something I didn’t believe in.  We were given the side we were to debate – it was not necessarily  our own beliefs or opinions.  This has helped me immensely when writing about a character I don’t necessarily agree with.

3) Listening and understanding another person’s opinion can go a long way in creating characters that aren’t one-dimensional.

Buffalos Sparring