Fiction writing involves a number of dimensions. Some of these include the theme of conflict, the history and current state of the setting, the turning points and the action. However, without iconic and original characters, the story will cease to hold the reader’s attention. Many a writer has been discouraged because his characters lack substance. Here’s a short guide to character development, to cease your qualms.
Starting off, decide your character’s place in the story. Classify him or her based on these two conditions:
1. Is he or she an important character who appears frequently in the story?
2. Does the character’s role or attitude change significantly during the story?
Detailing a Frequent Character:
If the character appears frequently, the amount of attention and detail you give to him or her significantly increases. Your protagonist and his or her dear ones have to be covered carefully, giving details about their likes, dislikes, sense of fashion, skills and so on, while a random tramp or spectator in a scene will at most get a name and some clothes.
If the character changes during the story, even if he or she plays a rather smaller role during the story, some description will have to be given about his or her transition: subtle clues to tell the reader that something odd is afoot.
Detailing a Changing Character:
If a princesses’ temporary guarding unit suddenly decides to turn traitor, but are taken down in a single paragraph, you have to give the reader tell-tale signs of nervousness or over alertness.
If a general in your protagonist’s army talks strategy with the protagonist a lot during the story but doesn’t budge when it comes to his opinions, it’s best to just cover the general’s basic characteristics and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. The character of Argus Filch, the caretaker in the Harry Potter series is a fine example, where the author describes his behavior in the beginning but offers no build up on it later.
Character Personality Creation:
Now moving on to the character’s attributes. It’s often better for a beginner writer to base them on people he really knows initially so he can track their line of thought. Because of this, writers are often advised to learn new things, football, ballet dancing, table tennis etc.; anything to meet new people and potential characters.
Talk to Your Character:
Visualize yourself as a character in the story that had a chance conversation with the character. Make yourself a king, a knight, a wizard, a slave, maybe even Sherlock. Write down what you’d talk about, and particularly how your character would react.
Make Your Characters Flawed:
Now you’ve got characters with personality, style and attitude, and you know where to put them as well. The one last thing you have to focus on, is modelling them as real human beings, with flaws and odd habits, false beliefs, superstition and inhibitions. Now that doesn’t mean you need to turn them into drug sucking maniacs, just that they should have characteristic flaws which the reader can relate to.
Harry Potter missed his parents, even though he was at a magical school with more money than he could spend. Batman refused to destroy the joker, on countless occasions because of his moral infallibility.
Befriend Your Character:
Finally, befriend your characters, heroes and villains alike. Let them tell you what they want to do next, rather than your having to tell them. Then you have the ideal characters, people of living flesh and blood, walking and talking in your mind’s world.
Image credit: Maarten1979 on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Aravind.jpg [/author_image] [author_info]Aravind Shenoy is a writer interested in topics ranging from finance to food, current affairs to types of prayers and all things in-between. An avid reader and music lover, he prefers quiet introspection, brainstorming and pooling ideas.[/author_info] [/author]