Fran Cook, Publishing Assistant
Creating and developing characters has to be the most pain-staking part of the writing process. What are some tips on how to create the memorable character without having to self-admit into the funny farm?
There are two kinds of writers in relation to character development: outliners and pansters. Do you outline your story with a framework, list all your characters, plots, etc. or do you write by the seat of your “pants” creating mystifying characters as they evolve in your brain? There is no right or wrong way, but character-driven stories include characters running the plot line, driving it forward, verses your plot remaining in control. If you’re an outliner, you may have an easier time naming, spacing and developing character-plot parallels throughout your penning. Maybe not. Either way, get started on your character worksheets.
Dr. Schmidt offers a practical and in-depth way to map out everything about your characters in this must-have character worksheet. Nomenclature about your characters range from eye color to psychology. Her worksheet is divided into three areas: character story sketch, character snapshots and character-revealing scenes. The beauty of this framework acts as a guide that is completely amendable, as you need to change plot or character details.
A great point that Mr. Jenkins submits is ensure your characters have both strengths and flaws. Where there is weakness, there is vulnerability and possible collusion in the story that the reader will subconsciously look forward to searching out in that character as the plot unfolds. If a character suffered abuse from a parent as a child, then knowing this, the reader assumes the abuse-victim’s behavior will most likely play out in a harmful role in the story as the victim parents her own children.
Provide hints about what rests deep in your character’s soul and how they may try to portray a different outer appearance, perhaps walking a road of deception or denial.
Introduce your character early on, but don’t give too much away too fast. Make assumptive descriptions that cause the reader to walk down a mental road with the character, wanting the character to go one distinct direction in the reader’s mind, but then throwing the wrench of deeper secrets in during a different scene that changes plot direction and dismays the reader. Place the reader on edge and give them enough to stay on edge until you yank the floor out again and send them down another path.