Mini-Series Part 1: Character Development

Characters are the heart and soul of your writing piece. Not only do they take on a life of their own, but they also bring the story’s environment, nature, and more to life. They can make you smile, laugh, cry, rage, and throw your cat across the room. They are powerful and they’re all from your own mind.

In the first part of this four part mini-series, I will be discussing what characters are, how to make them, and why they are so important to your story.

Well, for starters, why are characters so important to your writing? Without characters in a story, there really is no story. It’s just a bunch of happenings and goings-on that are taking place for no reason whatsoever. That’s a boring story, to say the least.

Also, readers want to be able to grasp the concept of what is going on in the surrounding area: why someone is reacting a certain way, what smells weird, and more.

Without characters, you don’t have a story. So, let’s take a look at how to start developing a character:

  • Think of personality. Personality is what makes the character unique and separates the main character from the supporting and background characters. It can make a character a protagonist or an antagonist, and it can also make the reader either cheer for that character in dire situations, or cheer for another who is more tragic or epic in some way. *Warning! Watch our for Mary Sues and Gary Sues! You don’t want a cliche character – those are boring!
  • Physical appearance. Yes, even though your character is just words on a page, they still need to look like a person (or a monster or alien or what have you, depending on the genre you’re writing for)! Try starting out by jotting down simple physical appearance details: eye color, hair color and length, skin color, male or female, etc. Then go back and start filling in smaller details: does he/she have freckles, an elongated nose, a broken wrist, etc.
  • Likes and Dislikes, we all have them. So should your character if you want to make them believable. Give them an insatiable desire for chocolate, or a hatred for the color green. Anything! List them out for your own reference – your reader will be able to discern their likes and dislikes through the story itself.
  • A back story is just the beginning. A character needs to have some sort of back story or history to know who they are, where they came from, who raised them, etc. Make it tragic or make it happy, it’s up to you.

You can use these few simple tips for creating any kind of character, no matter if they’re the hero or the villain, the supporting or background character. Each tip will apply to each character, so take the time to write them out for each character.

Characters are the backbone of your story. They help to create the world around them through their language, their appearance, their likes and dislikes, and more. Without them, you’d be up the creak with no paddle. If you take them away you lose the backbone to your story and it would just fall apart, and that might make it difficult to salvage.

So take the time to write out your character’s, well, everything! You should know your characters inside and out before you get going anywhere with them. Yes, sometimes it works out before you get to really know your character, but unless you start with the basics you aren’t going to have a clue as to where your story is going and it might turn into a mess.

Of course characters are just one of the many important factors in creating a story. Next time I’ll be discussing setting development and how to place those characters you just created into a setting. Stay tuned!

Optional: Leave comments about characters you have created or are creating and how you went about creating them!

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