Friday, June 6, 2008


I've struggled so much with the plot of my current WIP that I've not really had a chance to delve too deeply into characters. So here's my ideas on the ideal way to develop characters.

  1. Create a personality for the character. This doesn't have to ever go on paper, but you should know the character's likes and dislikes. You should be able to say what he's afraid of, his favorite thing to eat, whether or not he's a night person.
  2. Create a set of motivations and values for the character. This goes deeper than personality--it touches on character values. Does the character value truth? Then he'll be angry when someone lies. Does the character not really care about what it takes to do something? Then he'll be more ruthless.
  3. Create a plot. Plot and characterization lies hand-in-hand. If you just have the plot, then you just have a list of events. If you just have characters, then you just have a list of people. Combine events + people to get a story...and if you've established who and what the characters are and their values, then you'll know how they will react in a given situation.
Essentially, the author's job is to create the events that the characters react to. JK Rowling created Harry Potter as a strong-willed boy willing to fight for what's right, one who's a bit reckless and with a hero-complex, but one who essentially had a good heart. Then she put this boy in a situation where he had to do these things. Think about the fifth book. Harry has a vision of Sirius being tortured. That's the event. His reaction--rushing heedlessly off to save him--is based on Harry's character. Combine the event and the character, and that's the story.

My goal in writing: infuse more of my characters into the plot. I had only a vague idea of all but the main characters, but I've got to bring in more on my side characters so that they react to a situation based on their own personalities instead of what I need them to do to develop the plot.
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