Did you have a book boyfriend, or a book girlfriend? Someone we fell for in the imaginary part of ourselves that enjoys the freedom of our own instruction? Many of us did and still do. It's all part of the magic of losing ourselves in a really great book. Writers take a lot of care and effort to make sure their characters are believable, deep, and so human they could as well live next door. Think about yourself, all the many aspects to your life that make you part of the real story of life. There are so many factors about you that could find their way into the narrative. The thing is, if we don't know them technically, it can be near impossible to put our finger on them. Luckily, a lot of work has already gone into finding out the key points which we love to identify with. Include some if not all of these in your character design and you'll have people that readers will feel they really know.
Actually, who are they?
We all have an identity, something we call ourselves. What is it they do? What do they dress like and what music do they like to listen to? These things matter and conjure alll manner of predisposed stereotypes we can utilise. It's almost as if someone's already done the work for us in that regard.
How do they see the world?
Are they one of the angry sad types who find life a daily battle against higher forces or are they the excited happy type who leaps out of bed and gives thanks for everything they find? Most of us have a bit of both, we have to decide which is which for each person. Someone's world view tells us a lot about their past experiences and the types of decisions they will make.
What sort of people do they like?
Who are they attracted to, what do they admire, respect, and want to associate with? These things tell us a lot about how a person sees themselves and their values in life. Does it matter if their friends or loved ones do things in different ways or not? Which kind of people don't they like, who do they avoid?
How do they speak?
We all have different vocabularies and mannerism of speech. The things we talk about, the ways we say them, and the ability to put our thoughts and feelings across in different circumstances are all unique. This matters and when we write characters, we have to be aware of these opportunities for depth.
What makes them happy?
Sometimes people have guilty pleasures or obscure hobbies that we'd not normally ascribe to them. Knowing another level of personal pleasures can give yet another interesting dimension to an individual on paper.
Who do they turn to for help?
We all have a support network of sorts. Some of us have really big ones, others have small ones. Depending on how a person sees themselves in the world, a support network could be any number of things. Define this by having your characters turn to people for help sometimes. Who do they ask and why?
What is their intuition like?
We're all different. Our intuition and instincts vary depending on who we are, how we see the world, and what we think it is we want. Some of us shy away from danger, others go in head first. Some of us would not feel comfortable in an unknown place with unknown people, others would gladly do it everyday. When the phone rings, do they think oh no or oh yes?
What makes them imperfect?
No-one is perfect, it's a lie. The thing is we all have issues and unhelpful behaviours and psychology that get in the way of social harmony. Find these breaking points for our characters, what is their trigger, how do we get our character to do something completely out of character?
How to they make up for it?
So unless we're a psychopath, we all feel bad when our actions or words end up in the wrong place. It's not a nice feeling to know we are at fault and we have caused suffering for another person. How does our character feel this and then make amends? Do they take their time, summoning the courage, or do they go in full speed and bend over backwards to say sorry? Do they lose their cool?
How do they use this to become a better person?
The story has to have a progression and the characters have to find meaning in the text for themselves. How will their experiences in the story change their personality from the start to the finish? Can we see a gradual evolution of intention or perspective throughout the chapters?
Want to know more about character development? Try this short online course
Or how about using the Tarot deck to design your characters? Here's how.
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