James Bond, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes have all been characters who have lived with us as if they were real. 221B Baker Street, is perhaps one of the addresses most ardent readers tried to find in search of the famous detective. So, what made them come alive so much so that their popularity has grown, and their fan base refuses to diminish over the years?
The answer lies in the uniqueness which gives them a rather third dimension with added depth, personality, and motivations over the course of the story. The changes the persona of the character goes through, adding different tones and hues to it, make it a memorable read. In this article, we will delve into the nuances of creating such a character, which is not only believable but also stay longer in a reader’s memory.
Character Development: The Process
In fiction writing, character development is the process of building a unique, three-dimensional character with depth, personality, and clear motivations which become clear over the course of the piece of work. It can also refer to the changes a character undergoes over the course of a story as a result of their actions and experiences also called the character arc.
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To answer the question as to why character development is important let’s review that when writing it – a novel or a story– a character interacts with events over time. Character and plot are inseparable because much like a person, a character is what happens to them. Without a clear sense of who a character is, what they value, and what they’re afraid of, the reader will be unable to appreciate the significance of the events you create, and your story would not have the desired impact.
Like real people, fictional characters too have hobbies, pets, histories, ruminations, and obsessions. These characteristics inform how a character reacts to and feels about the things that happen to them. It’s essential to your novel that you understand all aspects of your characters so that you are equipped to understand how they may react under the pressures of events they encounter.
Character Development and how it affects the story
Your main character’s goal sets the stakes in your story. It doesn’t matter whether your story stakes are big or small, as long as they matter deeply to your protagonist.
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Your character doesn’t always need face superhero problem and alien invasion, perhaps they are trying to save their family from an eviction or fighting to keep their business from going bankrupt. Your job as a writer is to establish what’s important to your character (ideally, it’s something that your audience can relate to), and help the reader imagine what might happen if they lose that important thing.
Tips for an effective character development.
- Develop characters who reflect your interests. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your characters, so the fiction rule “write what you want to know” applies to them as well. Don’t be afraid to invest your protagonist with familiar qualities, but prioritize your passions and make sure that your main characters emerge from the setting and topics you’ve developed so far.
- Reveal their physical world through detail. Different writers focus on different details to evoke character, whether deliberately or not. Balzac focused on his characters’ physical appearance. Dashiell Hammett never fed his characters, while Charles Dickens fed his extravagantly. Some writers are interested in revealing character via clothing, as Flaubert did, while others attend to mannerisms or physical appearance. Whatever details you choose, it’s important for you to know your characters’ physical world intimately, and how they relate to it.
- Give them the right skills. Your characters should have skills that will allow them to function in your setting. If you’ve chosen to set your novel on another planet, then make sure your character has a space suit or learns how to use one.
- Create memorable characters. When creating important characters that the reader is going to meet more than once, be sure that they’re memorable in some way. Try to give each one a quirk or quality that can be used later to help readers recall who they are. This could be a title like “deputy” or a physical attribute like “ginger-haired.”
- Give the reader access to their inner conflict. One way to create intimacy with your reader—and to get them to care about your main character—is to use internal monologue. This means letting the reader see a character’s thoughts as they happen, which exposes that person’s inner conflict, motivations, opinions, and personality. Internal monologue not only reveals character: it’s a neat way to convey information about your setting, events, and other characters.
- Disrupt your reader’s expectations. The most interesting characters will surprise your readers. Think about it: We don’t have to pay attention to things that are stable. But when something unexpected happens—a skeleton comes out of the closet, for instance—we pay attention.
Characters, like people, are imperfect. They don’t need to be likable, but they must be interesting. Hope you go on to create memorable ones.
(Written exclusively for Storizen by Madhulika Ra Chauhan)
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