Developing characters closely resembles watching a child grow. Writers understand solid characters can make or break their story lines. Characters need to have lives, personalities, positive and negative traits. Most importantly characters must be realistic. If they are going to take the readers hand and lead them through the story, they must appear to someone you could meet on the street. I found reading Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland, gave me a springboard to creating my characters. I recommend her series, she gives great ideas and a solid foundation for any new novel in the making.
New characters are one of writer’s biggest challenges. It takes hard work to create images and personalities that add to the story. I used these tips to create my new characters with depth and personality.
- Think about their purpose within the story. Friend or foe every character has a purpose. When the story focuses on this character he must make a difference in the whole scheme of things. Will he block the protagonist’s progress or help him along? Will this character stand out or complete the background in the protagonists world? Big or small, his reason for being on the pages of your novel are important to the story. If his purpose diminishes, you may consider cutting him from the storyline.
- Make the character have personality traits unique to him. Flatline characters do not have dimension, they are background extras and your reader will forget him quickly. If he has purpose and goals. He must be created enough to step out of the book. Writers know their characters intimately enough to pick them out of a crowd, or from a criminal line up. The reader should know them too. Create a list of characteristics, background and purpose to the story line. Unique characteristics helps the character complete the character dimensions.
- Write the story from the characters POV. If you struggle to find the character’s purpose in the story line. Write the story as the character understands it. Not just the facts, write how he see it. He may not know everything, but at least you will see his POV through his personality. It is an eye-opening experience.
The characters in the second book include freedmen and women from Virginia. Characters found in the Reconstruction South. Good and bad, these characters are challenging. New characters are fun to create, but I really enjoy evolving my current characters. Young Thaddeus as an older child. We last saw him an infant. Emilie and Stephen change over the years. How has marriage challenged these characters? There will be some cameos from beloved characters you knew from the first book.
Watching my characters change and grow through life challenges is one of the joys of writing novels. I hope the tips and hints will help develop your characters. Characters are like family to writers. We love some and hate others. If the reader does not feel the same, there is more work to do. Think about introducing this family member to your readers. What will be their impressions?