Hey, welcome back to my blog!
Today I decided to write about character development – my favourite part about being a writer. Creating characters, giving them names and a back story and planning out their adventure is so much fun to me. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it took years to figure out a system that really works to build a character. If done well, a writer should be able to name anything at all about their characters whether it’s a hard cold fact they’ve thought about or something they just know and feel about them. Here are six questions and tips I always keep in mind when I’m writing new characters!
1. What was their upbringing like?
Knowing a character’s upbringing is essential. The events of the past often shape who we become in the future and it works much the same way in writing when you are trying to make a realistic character. For instance, if a character was abandoned or left to be much on their own as a child, perhaps in the present they’re more likely to have trust issues. Maybe going through one trauma as a kid makes them vengeful as an adult. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe they are struggling with PTSD. The past can often lead characters down a certain path as the book starts and serve as a powerful motive.
2. What were their parents like? Their heritage?
Being aware of what a person’s parents are like can be a really useful tool to making stronger characters. This counts from anything like why your character has the name they do, to traits they might have. Do they act a certain way because their mother was like that or is it in spite of her? We often pick up things from the people who raise us and characters are no different. Think about where your subject comes from, what their childhood was like and even why their parents gave them the name they did. As basic as this might sound, a character coming from a wealthy place and stuck-up parents will probably have a name that reflects that, whereas a character living in the woods part of a post-apocalyptic world or even in a spiffy utopia will have a name that sounds more ‘out there’.
3. What were they doing before the book starts?
So, it’s not like before the book starts, our characters didn’t exist. They had a life, friends, family and maybe a job too. Just like their up bringing, it adds to a character when you mention what they were recently up to. Maybe they just got a boyfriend or girlfriend and are feeling totally elated. Or maybe they just got fired from their job and are feeling prickly. Maybe school let out for the holidays or they just graduated. Perhaps they got exiled from their community for doing something they weren’t suppose to? There are endless options but each one will determine your character’s perspective at the start of the book and set the tone for the beginning chapters.
4. What are their hobbies, dislikes & likes?
Throwing in some hobbies that a character might have fleshes them out considerably. It will also help reflect what role in the book they should have. A character’s interests will heavily influence their role in the book. However, having begin in one role at the start and set them on a journey to do a total 360 can also be interesting! A strong-willed character should know what they stand for and be adamant about their likes and dislikes whereas one who might be more insecure or unsure might need more of a catalyst to push them into things. Giving a character hobbies, morals, likes and dislikes also make them more relatable to your reader, giving them something to identify with in themselves.
5. What is their goal/dream?
Your character should always have some sort of goal or dream to motivate them. It gives them purpose and drive, a reason to move the story forward. Be clear about what it is your character wants, so as not to confuse your readers, and tell them why the character cares so much about doing this. What is your character’s goal at the beginning? Does it change, get accomplished or dashed by the end? This pretty much defines their arc and so it’s important to know how it all goes down before you begin writing.
6. Make Character Profiles
Before you begin working on the actual story, try making a character profile. For example, I like to make 1 document per manuscript. Each character gets two pages of backstory, some reference photos and a summary that includes major plot points pertaining to them, arcs and low points. For their backstory, you can write in things like their upbringing, relationships with other characters, personality traits and motivations. When I choose reference photos, I personally like to choose 2-4 main ones and place them right under the character’s full name, with the actor/actresses name in brackets beside it. If you’re going to choose reference photos, it’s important to remember not to just copy/paste the actor entirely. Grab reference photos that inspire your writing and remind you of your character (maybe because they have a similar hair style, eye color or build) but just remember it’s not about making them become the actor/actress completely. In short, a character profile is a great and easy access thing to turn to when you’re in the middle of writing and realize that you forgot an important fact you need asap.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today! Be sure to let me know if this helped you out or what you’re favorite character writing tips are down in the comments! Also, don’t forget to hit ‘ follow’ on my blog so you can always notified when a new post is out. As always, have an awesome day!