Developing your Characters and Making Them Interesting
Recently I got a message about a person struggling on how to develop their characters, as they normally wrote about already created characters—also about how to make them interesting and make the people reading your story actually want to continue reading it.
I’d say this is one of the main differences between fanfiction and original work. Writing fanfiction you already rely on the fact people know the characters—how they look (or are supposed to look), personalities, and backgrounds… unless you’re writing an AU. There’s people that already like the characters and would (probably) be willing to read your story. Now, you focus on a good plot to interest them.
But then we are back on our original stories, our novels, anything we write. We have to create our characters from scratch—interesting characters that can fit and make our story flow. Because good characters can handle a poor plot, yet a good plot can’t handle poor characters. I guess this is all we do here, right? this is the bane of our existence as writers.
Truth is, there’s no right way to write a story. And there’s no right way to develop a character! I tested this by asking you guys how you do to create and flesh out your characters. Every response was personal and different.
Sometimes it starts with the spark of an word, an archetype, a color, a trait, a flaw, a song lyric, a painting, someone you know in real life—then you go from there.
Here are some basic steps on developing a character, yet, you can do it as you see fit:
- You start with the personality. Once that’s done it’s relatively easier to know how they look like. You sculpt and pick virtues and vices, flaws and qualities—perfect characters are not interesting. When it comes to protagonists and antagonists, they’re neither 100% good nor 100% bad, because there is not fully good or bad people. Get what I’m saying? Round characters are the thing we’re going for. Take details from people in real life, if you want: funny habits, mannerisms, what makes people human.
- Work on the appearance of your character. What’s their body type, their eye color, skin color, hair color, shape of their face/nose, if they have birthmarks or scars somewhere…
- Pick a name as you see fit. This can be the first step depending on how you work. Is there a meaning behind it? does it show somehow their character’s personality? remember sometimes they are relevant to the setting/genre.
- Flesh. ‘Em. Out. Think of hobbies and background. How’s the relationship with their family and friends, how they act around authority, what kinds of clothes they like to wear…
- Always remember: character development is an ongoing thing. You never “finish” developing your character, just like we, as people, don’t stay the same.
That being said, be creative with it! Don’t imitate the way your favorite authors develop their characters- create your own way! your characters are all yours! Make playlists about songs that remind you of your characters, keep a journal for them- sky’s the limit.
Good links for you:
- Fuckyeahcharacterdevelopment: a blog just about character development. Seriously, if you are not following this blog, you are in nothing.
- Our character descriptions and characters tags, along with body and mind and personality.
- Create fictional characters from scratch
- 13 ways to create compelling characters
- Moral Alignments and Jung Personality Theory: both good resources by the same person. They’re a different way to add dimension and understand better your characters. Even if you aren’t using them, they’re still a pretty good read.
- Get to know your characters interesting questions require interesting answers.
I saw this on my dash from a friend’s reblog, and given that we had a post on Escher Girls recently about writing characters and their arcs, I thought people might be interested in this, and some of the links provided which go into much more detail. :)