Not yours or mine, which I hope are all upstanding. 🙂 I’m talking about characters in stories. Let’s face it, if you don’t care about the characters, you sure aren’t going to care about what happens to them. Melissa Donovan wrote a great post on her Writing Forward blog to help writers with character development. A few of her tips:
- Use real people as models for your characters. Think of all the people you know intimately, people you love as well as people you despise. Take their strongest and most interesting traits and qualities and give them to your characters.
- Live out your dreams. When you were a kid, did you want to be a rock star or an astronaut? Well, now you can live vicariously through your characters!
- Family and friends make us who we are. Draft sketches for your characters’ family and friends (even if they’re not going to appear in the story) and you may learn a thing or two about your character.
- When you’re fresh out of good character writing ideas, try taking your characters out of the story altogether. Write a scene from a character’s backstory, or draft a monologue in your character’s voice.
My main character’s name is Shannon Greer. She’s 18, a star athlete, valedictorian, filthy rich and an entitled brat until she learns the secret her family has kept for generations and has to decide whether or not to continue on the path that’s been set for her. How do Melissa’s tips apply to Shannon?
- Shannon doesn’t suffer fools. She has no patience or tolerance for the majority of her peers. She’s also a bit vindictive and enjoyed driving her parents up the wall even before they revealed the secret of the family’s history. Since learning the truth, Shannon enjoys defying them that much more. There’s quite a lot of me in Shannon when it comes to resisting being led.
- I was on the dance team in high school, which was a lot of fun, but I always fantasized about being the best at something. I’ve never been good at sports, so I’m living vicariously through Shannon by making her an ace volleyball player. I felt like she had to have the chops to back up her attitude, so I went ahead and made her the smartest in her class, too. And, really, who doesn’t wish they had an unlimited amount of money at their disposal?
- The Greer family has one goal in mind and expects Shannon to follow along without question. As she learns the things they’ve done to reach that goal, Shannon becomes more and more disgusted. She sees that her superior attitude is essentially the same as her family’s and considers the possibility of breaking the pattern, even if it means betraying them and putting herself in danger.
- Writing a backstory for Shannon would be fun, but I think it’s a better idea for one of my other major characters. Mark Asher’s family has hated and worked against the Greers for generations, all while sharing the same secret. It doesn’t take long for Mark to see his family’s true colors. He has to make the same decision as Shannon: follow the established path or make one of his own.
I’ve finished the first round of edits on my first draft. (A week and a half ahead of schedule! Yay!) I need to write and insert a new chapter and put in said edits. I also want to go back through and make sure my characters are not only believable, but also grow within the story. Shannon changes significantly and I hope one day you all get to see how. 🙂