Archive | 12:09 PM

Library Writers Group: Character Development

28 Oct

Hello fellow writers!

As we get closer and closer to NaNo, I keep thinking about editing, but I’m almost too nervous to think about it seriously. Luckily, my library writers group made me feel awesome about writing and I’m feeling motivated again. We’ll see how long this lasts.

This month we talked about character development. We talked about our favorite characters and why they’re our favorite characters. I think one of my favorites would have to be Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. She’s so strong and unique which was great because she didn’t remind me of any other character out there. Other favorites were Rosa Huberman (The Book Thief) and Charlie (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Then we talked about characters we don’t like and we gave general descriptions more than specifics. We hate characters who don’t learn from their mistakes. When a character makes the same mistake twice, you want to punch him. It’s a fact. But when a character grows and develops, you’re more inclined to like him. We also hated when our characters had no motivation behind their cause. We need a reason to want the character to succeed, especially if we would do something different from the character in our own lives.

When it comes to villains,a good villain has a ‘love to hate him’ personality. They’re not pure evil for no reason; there’s a force driving them to act against the protagonist. When I think about it, Voldemort is actually a poor example of a well-motivated villain. (I hate knocking my favorite series.) He wants to be powerful because it’s powerful. That’s pretty weak. But then we look at a character like Lucius Malfoy who’s evil because he made a bad mistake when he was young and now has to follow through with it to protect his wife and son. That’s some good motivation if you ask me (and if you’re reading this, you did).

We also want to read characters who are realistic. There are a lot of elements that go into a character being realistic and not all of them have to be met to give a good character. We listed a few:

  • Relatable
  • Flawed
  • Consistent
  • Not ‘captain special’ (not everyone loves them)
  • Speaks in a realistic way
  • Not taken to the point of over-developing a side character who dies soon after
  • Has a unique voice.

This last one is worth diving into. There are a lot of ways to give a character voice. Some simple ways are giving them a phrase that they say often or a dialect or accent that’s unique to that character. Whatever it is the writer chooses, it needs to make the characters read differently, especially in a dual-narrator book. This was a big complaint of Allegiant; Four and Tris sounded like the same person. We did an exercise where our group moderator gave us some quotes and we had to guess who said it. Of the six we did, we got four right (I got one! Go me!). A unique voice adds a lot to a character.

For practice, we did a sheet called ‘101 Character Development Questions’ by Cecil Wilde (which for the life of me, I cannot find a link to). It’s a series of (shocker!) 101 questions about a character to help flush him or her out. They’re divided into categories: Basic Information; Backstory; Tastes; Morals, Beliefs, and Faith; Relationships; Physical Appearance; General Knowledge; Specific Knowledge; ‘What if…’ Questions; and Miscellany. In our session, I got to Morals, Beliefs, and Faith before I had an epiphany. My character is Italian, born to native parents. His foil character is Irish, born to native parents. Chance are that in the time period I’ve written them, they’d both go to church, arguably the same church, every Sunday. And I hadn’t mentioned that in my story. Needless to say, I’ll have to add that in.

I hadn’t given much stock to these lists before, but I see how they can make you think more about your characters. Maybe I need to spend the time doing these. Maybe.

Until next time, write on.

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