The other night I was talking with my Best Friend and he asked if I’ve been writing. The answer sadly was no. I’ve been too busy with family and haven’t had the time to work on my story. We stayed on the topic of writing. Mostly the process of character development. I had in mind a story that I had written some time ago. Looking back I can’t help but cringe at how flat my characters were. But it was a first effort, we must all learn.
Over time I’ve learned to give my characters life. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t come natural I had to work at it. To make it easy I started by using people from real life. I thought about their mannerisms and how they spoke. I even used myself, still do from time to time. I often use 3×5 note cards to flush out my character’s traits. I’d write down things about their appearance and personality. Slowly their background would come into focus.
At first I had no idea how to start with developing a character. So I used trusty old Goggle to show me the way. Lo and behold, there were character sheets galore. Free templates for the taking. I took from the ones I liked and went from there. The wonderful thing is that you can do this any way you want too. Use the 3×5 note cards, or create a spreadsheet, or fill a notebook if you like. Most of these details won’t go into your story, it’s not for that any way. It’s for you, the writer to get a feel for your character.
This character sheet is one that I like that I found through a Google search. Its posted on Pinterest but its original link didn’t work. So I have no idea where it came from or who created it. If you know please tell me so I may give proper credit.
I think it’s best to keep in mind that these sheets need not be filled out all at once. Take your time with them. Fill it in as you go along with your story. Perhaps to start out just to make it easy, fill one in for a character you love reading about. Take your favorite novel and break down the main character.
Remember that it’s important to keep in mind positive and negative traits. They must balance out or the character will feel artificial. There is nothing worse than flat one-sided characters that just lay there on the page doing nothing for the reader. No reader will keep reading if they can’t feel the character.
Character details are essential. Showing the reader through these details how the character looks, thinks, reacts, and speaks will give your characters life. As a reader we want to understand the motivations for their actions. To keep your story moving along our characters must make sense in their reasonings for what they do. If your character suddenly does something that seems out of character it will pull the reader out of the moment. I’m not saying you can’t surprise your reader but it should be done carefully. You may need to explain why it happened that way. Tread carefully here, having to explain in the middle of something isn’t always a good idea. Mostly it’s just bad writing. So if a Character is meek and shy it won’t do for them to be aggressive or violent. Unless they are being pushed to it. Maybe their life is in danger and they will have to fight. Maybe they wouldn’t fight just for themselves. Maybe they would only fight to save another, someone they love.
Characters are an import part of the story. Just as important as the plot. So don’t short change them by not giving them their fair share of your time. So take the time to get to know them, listen to what they have to say. I find that they have a lot to offer to the outcome of the story and it’s important to follow them and not to force them into what you had in mind. Stories like life doesn’t always go the way we thought it would.