Ernest Hemingway once said, \”When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.\”
Needless to say, character development is one of the most important parts of the writing process. Bad characters can absolutely kill a good plot if you aren’t careful.
Good characters are what get your readers emotionally invested in your story. They give them someone to root for — or against! But how do you develop them in a real, believable way?
Here are five tips to help you with your character development.
Why Did You Include This Character?
Hopefully, the answer is something more than \”because they’re cool.\”
Every character should have a role in your story. Whether they’re the main character, an ally, an antagonist, or a love interest, they should serve a function.
Are they there to provide important information? Comic relief? Where do they fit into the plot? Could you take them out with absolutely no impact to the story as a whole?
If you can answer that last question with a \”yes,\” then you probably should.
Give Your Character Goals
These should include both short and long-term goals.
Short-term goals are things like \”I want to find out who sent me this letter\” or \”I want to find a new place to live.\”
Long-term goals are a bit broader. They are things like \”I want to feel like I belong\” or \”I want to be free.\”
Knowing these goals will help you make your characters more believable.
Make Your Characters Flawed
There’s a term for characters who are \”too perfect.\” They’re called Mary Sues and are generally disliked.
This is because characters who are too perfect are often unbelievable. They make it difficult for the reader to relate to them or become immersed in the story.
Your characters should have flaws. And more importantly, those flaws should impact the course of the story.
Always Be Able to Answer the Question \”Why?\”
This is one of the most important things you can do for your characters.
When your character does something, you should always be able to say why they do it.
For example, let’s say the plot calls for your character to make a heroic self-sacrifice at the climax of your novel. In order for this to be believable, you need to set them up as a person who does that sort of thing.
First, you need to show them putting others before themselves. Then, you need to know why they are that way. What happened in their past to make them like that.
If they start out the story as selfish and self-serving, that’s okay, too. That just means that you need to develop your character’s arc.
Develop Your Character’s Arc
Characters, especially main ones, are expected to grow and change. But you can’t have it happen all at once.
Instead, the changes should happen gradually and have a logical progression. You should have several events happen throughout the course of the story that influences your character, so that the changes don’t seem random or out of the blue.
Finished with Character Development?
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