Character Development

CharacterizationCreating rich three-dimensional characters is tough, but one way to do this is by feeding your own interests.  Let me explain.

Lately, I’ve read a lot of books with characters who want to be writers or whose parents are writers. Then there are the parents who are teachers and librarians. It’s easy to see what happened.  The authors are writing what they know — books and writing.  After a while, this focus on books and words seems a little surreal because it has been done too often.  To avoid this, connect the character to your other passions.  Let him know all about your favorite hobby.

I know writers who are dancers and equestrians, athletes and musicians, fiber artists and bakers.  Their stories and their characters come alive when they bring their non-writing careers and hobbies into play.

If there is something that intrigues you, take a class.  I did this when I took a class on teaching evolutionary biology.  In this first class, I realized how dated my knowledge from college had become with so much new work in genetics.  So I followed this up with a class on human evolution.  But all the while, I felt a little guilty.  Yes, I was loving the classes but they weren’t writing related.

And then a writing buddy pointed out to me that they could be writing related if I gave these interests to one of my characters.  I had to laugh at myself because I’d just finished The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  Between the three main characters, they know all about writing and libraries and archives (no surprise), archaology, pre-med studies, paramilitary techniques, opera, historic manuscripts, early natural history (cabinets of curiosities), New York City history, architecture, art and much, much more.  Clearly, the writers’ passions had come into play as they developed these characters.

Do the same thing with your characters, pulling in your loves and experience.  Soon you’ll have a host of characters who are deliciously complex.


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