A Guide to Developing Your Characters
You know how to start your novel with notes, research and you even know how to gain inspiration. So, you may be asking yourself where do you begin to take your story at this point?
Now is the time to dive into characters.
What’s the big deal about characters? A great deal actually. They have a way of building a story. When you have strong characters, it’s amazing what can happen. Maybe you have a main character who is down right mean, but we don’t yet know what caused it and how they became that way. Maybe you have a main character whose only character flaw is that they care too much for other people and how that is their downfall. Maybe you have a villain who shows no signs of redeeming qualities but then you learn their back story and realize there is that one thing you can’t help but admire about them. Maybe you have a character who starts out as the villain but changes throughout the story to unfold into the hero.
Okay, now you have some different scenarios but how do you help bring characters to life to drive a story? I am going to give an example using Katniss from The Hunger Games. She became the spark, the literal flame that set a fire. The spark or fire was to create an uprising for the districts to take back their lives. Her only intentions when volunteering was to save her sister. Not to start a rebellion or to be someone that others admired. Her personality on the service is not very likeable. She is more like an onion you have to peel back the layers of her. Though she shows her true colors in the most desperate of times when she doesn’t mean. It started with volunteering as tribute for her sister, then in the actual games when she does what she can to protect Rue and the grief she felt to losing her. Her unwavering compassion that lives underneath the surface is what makes her a natural born leader even though it is not what she wants or set out for what so ever. Throughout the story you watch as she barely gives information but when she does open up they are profound moments. The moments she shows her vulnerability are her most heroic. She fights the role of being a leader, the spark, but she comes to find that it was meant for her because of her genuine sincerity to help not just those she loves but all her people.
Is it easy to write such characters. No it is not but here are some questions to ask yourself when going to write your characters:
What do I want for my characters?
Are they witty, moody, lethal, moronic, diabolical, suspicious, loving, etc?
What are their flaws, strengths and weaknesses?
What is it they struggle with?
Are they battling personal demons, if so what kind?
How do I want them to grow?
Will they start off good and turn evil or will it be the other way around?
Do I want them to inspire change in those around them?
What do they offer the other characters around them?
Who are they at their core?
What are their values?
I could write down at least dozen or more questions but the point is to ask questions. Take time to think on them and as your own inspiration comes to you, write down everything that comes to mind. What as your characters become a reality to yourself. They have their own story to tell, it is simply up to you to write it down for them. As their story unfolds, so does the rest of the story you are creating.