Character Development: A novice point of view



“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Two of the most common questions people ask me is how do you come up with the story and the people that are in the book. I’m always slightly taken aback by these two questions because when I’m writing my stories the characters are so real to me that the line between fiction and my reality is blurred.

I don’t see the characters that I create as non living beings. I see them as people that I know because in part when you create a person to be in your stories it’s almost like becoming a mother all over again. You have to love and nurture them so you can get into their newly created mindset. I do think that it is important to have a clear vision of who you are going to write and I thought I would share some of what my thought process is when I start writing.

1) Name: Make a list of the main characters and try to name them first before you go into details. For some reason I think it is easier to write out physical and personality characteristics when you have a name to start out with. Try to choose names that are not too common. I think it’s important to establish your characters as unique and giving them a commonplace name may make it difficult for you and your readers to connect because they may have a friend or an enemy of the same name which may make it hard for them to separate your book from their reality.

The whole purpose of reading a good book is to escape. Let’s try and make it easy for the reader to do just that!

2) Appearance:  Describe how they look with as much detail as possible. You want those reading your book to be able to conjure the image of the characters in their mind which will make it a lot easier for them to get lost in your story. I know that every one seems to think that they need to put some hot guy or girl on the cover of their book but I would rather have people use their own imagination to paint a picture in their minds of what they think my characters look like in person.

Judging by the book covers in the Kindle store I am probably wrong but I’m sorry, I know what I tend to gravitate more too when I am looking for a book, and since I’m the writer, I call the shots!

3) Personality: Once you have established your characters names and what they look like, it’s time for the real fun. I personally, think that characters evolve the more you write so you might have it in your mind to make your heroine be shy but by the third chapter she might be up on the bar singing ‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin. If that happens just go back and write something to the affect that she is shy at first but has no problem letting loose when she’s comfortable or knocking back shots of tequila.

I think as long as you have a general idea of how you want your characters to come across, that’s really all you need to start writing. Human beings and characters in a book are not one dimensional. We all have layers and it’s your job as a writer to peel those back for the reader to discover.

4) Plot: Last but certainly not least you have to have a good story otherwise all these fabulous people that you have created to be shared will be lost in a swirl of jumbled thoughts and poor book content. Always remember the characters should add to your story not be your entire story. No one wants to read about someone as they go about their mundane tasks in day to day life. They want a book that will take them on a journey. I’m not saying that it has to be some epic adventure but just make sure that it is one people will relate too in some way, shape or form.

I know that sounds funny coming from a girl who writes paranormal romance but I have always said from the start that I wanted to infuse a sense of realism into a non realistic genre. You want your readers to think, ‘That’s exactly what I would’ve said or done’. It may just be one line but that one line can give you a fan for life.

In the end you may write for yourself but if you’re going to try and sell it to potential readers always remember to take into account their needs. You may know exactly what it is you are trying to convey but someone else may not so put yourself in their position when you are writing. I know that I struggle with writing action scenes. Dialogue and plot? No problem. Action? Not so much. I think it’s because I see it being played out in my mind very quickly so it’s almost hard for me to describe it word for word. I try to put it on slow motion in my brain, almost like I’m watching a movie but it still can be a challenge sometimes.

5) Conclusion: Hemingway was spot on in his quote. Do not create a non realistic character, create a real person because in the end those are the people that your readers will remember.




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