CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT II
Have you ever heard the term topographical mapping? A simple/basic definition is: The detailed representation of both natural and man-made features of a specific land area where contour lines indicate increase and decrease of elevation. For the writer who is creating in-depth character elements this concept can be most useful. Many creative writing instructors suggest using a highs-and-lows format to develop the emotional peaks and valleys a character will experience, demonstrated in this illustration.
However, it is my hope that serious authors will consider the visual elements of topographical mapping that offers almost infinite possibilities for character development—realizing the myriad of choices to be made all along the way—demonstrated by this topo-map of the island of Hilo in Hawaii.
Using this island image, and placing your characters IN the city of Hilo, can you see how many choices they will have in reaching their destination? And their selected path will depend on all the pieces of their personal life-development up to that point in time—where they have lived, who resided in their environment, what motivational seeds were set into them, and their physical abilities, capabilities and/or disabilities.
It is the job of the AUTHOR to know the WHY of each step your characters take. Here are a few questions to ask yourself while in these development stages.
- Why is your character at that place at that specific time?
- What is their goal?
- Who else is involved—or will reap the consequences—of your characters’ choices?
- When must they complete the process to reach their goal?
- Where do they anticipate being (physically, emotionally) after their goal is reached?
- What is the driving force behind this immediate quest?
- What rational are they using to make each step?
- What will happen if they fail?
We have multiple examples in the classics of book writing that teach us not only superb character development, but also the motivation of compassion: being able to put yourself in the other person’s place and understand why they act the way they do even if you don’t agree with it (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, by John Boyne, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Harry Cole).
Before and during the days/months of developing your characters, I strongly advise reading one or more these novels. And, should you feel the impetus to outline the development of a specific character, please do so. Allowing the superb writers to instruct us from the pages of their novels is a gift to ourselves that will reap multiple benefits. ⚓︎
|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.