Character Development Cheat

28 Feb

When I started blogging, I would write posts on writer’s block, provide handy little tips on overcoming it to get you going. I even provided one during the early days of a cuppa.

Wow, so many people have so many ideas on what will work, but it really is each to their own. A bit of assistance along the way however can be helpful.

When I was writing this post, I got thinking that some may be a little alarmed that I had started with something so real for my characters and developed it. am I wrong to do this? Absolutely not.

We all, whether we like to admit it or not steal from those we know. A flick of the hair, a particular phrase, if it catches our imagination, into the pot it goes. some of us eavesdrop on the bus, some seem to be watching the world go by whilst in reality are mentally noting the small childs limp, the too tight jeans…

Some call it people watching, some make up a whole world for the people around them, creating each persons story. It’s not just writers, the teenage girl may note her peers latest outfit to recreate it, whilst the small boy dreams of the day he will be allowed to ride his bike to the shop alone.

I remember a task that we were set during a children’s writing session in university. it was simple, describe someone you know from the ground up. Have you ever tried this? It is simply the most intriguing exercise you can do.

I was unsure at first. How can describing someone in this way be beneficial? I opted to describe someone who I spend a lot of time with, not sure what I would end up with. I began with the shoes, tatty, too tight laces and faded. By the time I had reached the knees, I was no longer describing the person I began with. My imagination had started working without purpose, I didn’t know what I wanted to end with, I just started adding little details, simple rips and repairs…

I was left with a slightly eccentric, tramp like character that just begged for more questions to be asked. Why were the clothes tatty? Who was his family? Did he even have one? Was this a lifestyle choice? Was there a significant event in his past? Yes I knew the answers to these questions for the original person, but those answers no longer fitted what I had on the page. In short, I had a whole new character that just needed the story completing around him.

How do you develop your characters? Where do you start? Have any of your characters ever been identified by close friends and family?


7 Responses to “Character Development Cheat”

  1. Rhys C. Ethan February 29, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    So far I’ve outlined characters on a very basic level and then start writing and see where it takes me naturally for the character, how he speaks, what sort of person he is and etc, and keep writing and after a few chapter I’ve got a new character so when I rewrite I know my character better and how they respond to the situations they are going to face.

    • Ellie March 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

      I think Rhys that is one of the best ways to be if you have the story already in your head. I am not sure this cheat would work if you had the story, or at least it wouldnt for me. I would be constantly filling in details to make them what i want, rather than letting them naturally develop.

  2. Charles Byers February 28, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    I like that “from the ground up” exercise. When I write, I’ll usually keep a page of short, disconnected notes or lists about a character—’leaves things under the car seat’; ‘doesn’t have a pen’; ‘lost weight since buying these jeans’, etc. I find I’m choosy with the character information I actually include in a story (the details we fill in ourselves, I think, are the ones that bring us closest to the character,) but I’ll be conscious of tons of detail about him or her while I’m writing.

    • Ellie March 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

      Wow I dont think i have ever gone as far as to say a character has lost weight since buying jeans – although I did have a character that I decided was practically addicted to cheese, his choice of the day would depend on his mood. That was quite a fun exercise working out how that would come across on the page without actually saying it – would the reader even get it?

      Holding information back about the character keeps them your own, I like knowing that one of mine has a mole on the underside of the arm but we dont tell anyone, we just never see them in short sleeves!

  3. Skyler :) February 28, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    Just to start off, I’m not stalking your blog! Lol. I feel like I comment on every post! But anyways, to make my characters I draw on the people around me. I’ll take my friends and think to myself “What would happen if we all took different life paths and ended up in places completely different than what we had originally intended? What would happen if we became totally different people, but still kept a small piece of who we are?” Then I take those questions and decide just how much of the people around me I want to use as main inspiration. After that I develope entire characters around the small details I decide to use. Does that make sense??? 🙂

    • Ellie March 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      Absolutely! the problem you get is when you run out people to use ha!


  1. The Write Shadow’s Blog Carnival – February 27th, 2012 | The Write Shadow - March 9, 2012

    […] Ransley talked about something I think we can all relate to in, “Character Development Cheat.”  While you’re there, you might also enjoy checking out her “No Way Out” […]

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