Tag Archives: character development

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?

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Developing your Characters – What do you recommend?

26 May

Much of what we do as writers is invalid if our characters are not strong. The text becomes difficult to follow, and the plot, no matter how dynamic, gets lost in the confusion of who’s who.

I have been lucky enough to be asked to offer feedback on another writers work. Gav and I have studied together, and I have been fortunate to read through the text from the original concept, up to what is now chapter ten. I have read the full synopsis, been privy to discussion about how the plot develops – and how it has altered when Gav was told, ‘I’m not sure about that.’

For me this has been, as with many people who have sat within writing groups, an experience to learn from. Writers will make mistakes, and it is down to the trusted few to help point out where improvements could be made.

Yesterday, I read through chapters 6-10, and provided my feedback. I decided, as our relationship can withhold brutality, to give my gut reactions, and not taking time to digest and consider my words sympathetically. The overall theme to my feedback was that the characters required further development. In this case, the plot is amazing. I am not just saying that, I mean it. It is engaging, intriguing, and twists hit you like an uncontrolled machine gun. But the characters (of which there are many – something many writers shy away from) had you writhing in awkwardness. Who is this person? Why are they relevant? When one even got killed I didn’t care! There just wasn’t that connection.

So how could this be improved? I have several tips.

  • Post it notes for plotting. I suggested before using post it notes to plot, with a different character in each colour. This way you can see where the characters need to interact with each other, and what strengths their need personalities to withhold their roles within the plot.

 

  • Character bibles. Using each of these strengths, makes notes of who each character is. If they are timid, with mousey brown hair, glasses and stammer, will the reader believe they are able to take on the government? If the answer is no, will we see a development in their persona to make it more believable, or have we just got the wrong man for the job?

 

  • Dialogue. Get your character talking. Again, if they are timid, would they have a deep voice? maybe so, but would that deep voice tremor with nerves?

One of the tests I used on myself to make sure I wasn’t being too harsh in my feedback was that I decided to describe the characters to Gav as I had envisioned them. Out of the seven main ones that featured within these four chapters, I was able to describe briefly two of them. When I said I imagined one character like a ‘Libby Kennedy’ of ‘Neighbours’ the response was: ‘No,my character is Spanish.’ Sure I had picked up on the name, but it hadn’t registered that it symbolised her origin.

Taking time to develop your characters is essential. I do not have all the answers, and would never presume to. Have you got a tried and tested method that has made the characters come alive? Have you ever read a book that left you feeling uneasy with your relationship with the protagonists?

* Just a quick note, one of my favourite authors is Jilly Cooper. Now there is an author that likes many characters and at times, this can leave you somewhat confused. However, each of the stories need a large amount of personalities, they just wouldn’t work if it was felt it would be too confusing for the reader. Cooper overcomes this by providing a couple of sentences about each character at the beginning of the book. This is a great source for referral, and allows you, the reader, to continue reading without too much cause for interruption. I for one detest having to flick back though and re-place a character and think that this is a fabulous idea that we should all use.

(If you would like to know more about Gav, visit his blog (he is just getting started), or pop by and say hello on Twitter @RebelliousGav.