This blog post is about character development. It seemed appropriate to begin by congratulating my son on achieving his goal of becoming a licensed Commercial Pilot. Talk about character development!
Getting To Know Your Characters
At first, I had to choose only names for the characters in my story. Some came from life experience, others came from people who helped me. Mostly, I researched names heavily on Google.
Writing backstory is probably as fun as editing is for me. You can make up anything you like. It's fun to play with ideas and combine things from people you know, have met, admire, or don't know at all. They can be completely made up if you want. But, they have to mesh with the rest of your cast in appropriate ways. For example: it wouldn't work for a story if all the characters were railroad workers and your story wasn't about, say, a railway town.
You need to mix it up. We all have a personal story that shapes us.
It's gets complicated when you go deeper into character development. Personality traits and character archetypes are a way to give your character a preset personality. We all belong to a personality group by the way. All of my primary and secondary characters got a personality from me. The minor characters didn't get anything but their names. On a positive note, one minor character did get promoted to a secondary character.
Personality is how your characters react in different situations. When you already know this information, it's much easier to write and the character seems real. That's the point. You can always change things up to suit your needs but you still have a blueprint to go by.
Giving my characters a unique voice is quite an experience. Let's just say I am glad that I write alone, for the most part. Talking out loud in your character's voice makes you sound incredibly silly. Even imagining it seems silly. Especially when it's a female English accent who is pissed off. As the author, you have to know what it will sound like in the reader's mind. Whispering, shouting, speaking fast or slow, all needs to be tested to see if it sounds right. You get the final say on everything. Plus, you can always go back and fix things that don't work.
I covered writing emotions in the last blog post so I won't go into detail. To add realism, characters need to show emotion. It could be frantic, depressed, angry, joyful, the list goes on. Being consistent at the beginning is important so that readers can empathize with the character. It makes them care. Character arcs should already be outlined so you know where to take their emotions as the story progresses.
Integrating your characters into the story at the appropriate times and places isn't as easy as plunking them in. Where and how you introduce them can be a challenge. It has been for me personally. Once you've accomplished it, the writing takes off. Good introduction and boom, off you go.
In my book so far: I have three main characters, four secondary characters, and thirteen other people who I have invented and show up in the story. That's twenty people that I have created from imagination. Imagine the number of characters in Harry Potter!
Developing characters is only one part of the writing craft. To me, it's the most important. I feel they drive the plot.
If readers don't care about your characters, they won't be able to 'experience' your story and as a result, probably won't finish your novel.
So, put the work in, and get your characters right.