This week’s post will focus on my character development and what that looks like when I am both in the beginning stages of my manuscript and when I am working on the book itself.
Disclaimer: Character development can look different for all writers. Some will develop their characters as they go and some will have everything planned beforehand. Some may even have strategies of their own that I’ve never even thought of but they know works for them. For those of you who want to share your own forms of character development please feel free to comment down below!
For me the beginning always finds me with a story forming in my mind. This can play out like if the opening of a movie was playing in my head or when something like a song or a scene from a TV show inspires me. I’m not going to get into too much detail about inspiration but we can definitely save that for another post.
Character development comes along once I start asking questions when the story idea is forming in my mind, and these can be ones that any writer will be familiar with. Who is the main character? What do they want? And, my personal favourite, what am I going to do to keep them from getting what they want? If you were to break down a grand majority of the books you’ve read in the past into these three questions, you’ll likely find that a great many authors out there use the same format. It’s a great way to get the ball rolling in my opinion.
I like to think of my characters as people that I know, or at least that I am beginning to know. I’ll start with their name and what they look like. Once I have that frame in mind I’ll begin by filling in the gaps. Such as, how they like to dress, what is their unique style. Do they have long hair that they wear up all the time or lose? Do they have glasses and if so are they prone to breaking them? This will then spiral into character flaws and personalities. Is the character stubborn, are they messy, are they independent and head strong, or are they insecure and quiet?
Age is also a main factor for my character development as this will help me pinpoint certain “life events” for the character. Such as whether or not they might have a driver’s license or if they are still in school. (Side note: owning a license or being in school is not limited to any given age - I could go into detail here but then I would just be repeating my Master’s Thesis :D ).
Once I have the character ‘framework’ as I like to think of it, I then expand on what I know from that one person and begin to add other people into the mix. Do they have siblings, are they close to them, if not why, if so, why? Do they live with their parents? Do they live alone? How many friends do they have, are there any they have a tighter bond with, if so why? And on and on. This I find definitely helps build upon my characters and make them feel more real when it comes to seeing how they interact with the world around them.
After the characters social group is formed I can begin getting into the nitty gritty side of WHAT is going to happen to the character and this is where they will begin forming with the general story idea that’s been forming in my mind.
In ‘The Next Right Thing’ I’d had those characters in mind for years before they finally made their way onto the page. Characters like Rena and Will had changed so much over the years in terms of how old I thought they were to the life experiences they would have which would later on affect how they lived their own lives. It’s definitely at points like this in my writing that I can begin to see the influence of my educational background seeping in. Having studied subjects like Law and Justice, along with Psychopathology and Criminal Behaviour, I find it easy to form the characters to the story. Their actions and choices will ultimately effect how the story development will come back to haunt them later on in the book. For example, the main character in ‘The Next Right Thing’ Rena was deeply impacted by having been abandoned by her birth mom and feeling as though she had no control over the circumstances of her childhood which lead her to being raised by a single parent. This would later affect how unable she is to let go of the feeling that she could do more after she becomes a victim of a random hit and run accident and fears that someone else could get hurt the same way or worse and knows that she has no choice but to act on her instincts.
My favourite part of the character development process would definitely have to be when the characters make the choices themselves. I know I know, there’s no such thing as the characters coming to life. Don’t worry. I haven’t gone crazy and started to think of my characters as people lol. But I do imagine them that way when it comes to the writing process. Once the character has been well developed and you’ve given them a personality, an identity, it becomes really hard to force them to do something they aren’t ‘built’ to do. For example, Rena would never have dropped everything and fled town to go on an excursion after her accident. Her behaviour and personality wouldn’t allow it. She HAD to stick around and find out the truth. I’m sure many authors out there have also found themselves in this position where regardless of how much of a ‘plot twist’ one event could be, it’s just not possible given the characters they’ve created thus far.
My new project, ‘The Caged Curse’ series, is definitely my favourite thus far. I love how much more room I have to develop these characters versus a stand alone book. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still write more stand alones in the future. But there is something to be said about being able to given your character more depth. For example, in ‘The Next Right Thing’ I mostly focused on the aspects of Rena’s life that were necessary to the story at the time. But for my new protagonist Nora, I can really dig into what makes her tick and not worry about writing a 10,000 page book in the end either.
Character is hands down one of my favourite aspects to any story and I love how just an idea or inspiration can lead to creating an entire new world all on its own. The possibilities alone are endless! Keep in touch for my latest project as it is in its final stages of preparation before it becomes available!
All the best,