LOOKING AT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
The basic elements of character development—one character at a time—holds these four essentials: What is the desire that motivates him? What obstacle(s) is in the way? What struggles must she go through in order to fulfill her aspiration(s)? What are the consequences to him and/or others?
Once you’ve answered these questions for the Main Characters—before you delve into these next steps—prepare files for each character and label it: Essence of (character’s name). Here are several tools to use in building complete characters who will resonate with multiple Readers.
- Research and collect several studies on motivation. Some will spout the latest theories and others will give you a history of “the study of human motivation.” Some will offer nuts-and-bolts clarity, other will peel information off the onion for you and then leave you with more questions than answers. And yet, each one will provide a nugget upon which you can build your unique, yet very human, character.
- Draw a picture. Well, not literally, draw a picture although I’m sure there are several people reading this blog who are gifted in that area, too. The concept here is to create a visual representation of your characters. There is software in the world today that can produce very realistic facial composite and I’ve heard of some writers using them. However, I consider magazines to be a good source and Web-Search-Images of various types to be the best tools for this piece. There are also several “Free Image” sites that allow access to hundreds of “people photos.”
- Home is where the heart is. So, build a home for each character. Whether they are street-dwellers or mansion-moguls the author needs live there with them. As you will learn, much of human motivation comes from their environment past, present and planned for. Again, the Internet carries volumes of photos—interior and exterior—of homes around the world. Which one(s) have your characters lived in?
The old cliché of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is extremely valuable to the writer who is building characters from scratch—and the suggestions given above will guide you well. IF, however, you have a real person you’re writing about, that is a whole different process. Here is what that looks like…
- Research and collect ALL the information you can on that person—past and present—and then consider developing a file (your opinions) of the motivations that have activated their life choices. Each event—from choice of sports to play in elementary and high school to marriage partner and career—will give you pages of information to draw from.
- Select specific photographs of that person at their various stages of life. These will give you a visual representation of how life has treated them and how they responded to the challenges.
- WHERE have they lived? The Internet can help you here, too. Examples of cities and towns and even neighborhoods will be available for you to find by simply searching the addresses of the person you’re placing in your story.
I’ve heard this process—of discovering what motivates a character—labeled “forensic physiological mapping.” I don’t know how accurate that is, however, I do like the concept of mapping. Working this process will definitely build you a believable character! ⚓︎
|ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.
Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.