Character Development

Or, 20 questions you should ask yourself in the creation of each of your main characters.

1. Pretend you are walking down a street, and you see your character for the first time. Describe them in one word. No matter how far fetched or illogical this initial impact may be, it may prove invaluable. Use clippings from newspapers or magazines as illustrations of how you envisage your character by their ‘looks’.

2. Take physical impressions next. The posture, stance, the stride and rhythm of movement. Possibly body gestures, as well as bulk and density of physical build, as these will give some clues to their character as well.

3. Are you reminded of an animal or object? Be careful of cliches.

4. Can you sense or see a colour to the character? Are they a bright person, or do they blend in with their surroundings?

5. What kind of clothes does the character wear? This is usually a key to psyche and social status.

6. The person’s voice. Tone and quality. Do they speak with an accent? What sort of words do they use? How do they say something, and what do they prefer to leave unsaid?

7. Where does the character live during the story? How does this affect them?

8. Where and when were they born? What about their childhood? How does their background shape their personality?

9. Early influences? i.e. Parents/teacher/first love/hero? These can be a key to personality.

10. Decade. Does the one your character lives in influence them? Shape them or their style i.e. 60s. Do they accept the standard of their time, or rebel?

11. What is the most important thing to the character? What do they want more than anything else? Do they daydream or fantasize at all?

12. What is their conflict? Is their conflict imposed by circumstances? Or have they created them? And who will settle them?

13. How far will they go to get what they want? i.e., steal or commit a crime? This may hook the reader by this ploy too.

14. What does the character fear most? Will it keep them from achieving their ends?

15. More revealing areas: Gambling/alcohol/money/love how do they handle competition?

16. How do they react to children, old people, foreigners and the sick?

17. How does the character shape the plot?  How does the plot shape the character?

18. How does the character interact with other members of the cast? Who acts as their foil? Who contrasts or compliments them? And, who threatens them?

19. Do you like or hate this character? What is desirable or negative about them? What are their faults? Mix and match light with dark, in much the same way a painter would.

20. Finally, what is there to make the reader care about what happens to them?

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