I’ve been thinking about why I write my characters in certain ways. I have my heroes, villains and everyone in between, each one is different. Character development is crucial to a good story.
Sometimes people write characters very black or white. I prefer to mirror the shades of grey in real life. Everyone has the ability to rise above circumstances and shine or sink into their own personal desperate hell.
The grey area is what makes people interesting. Can a good person commit a terrible crime in the name of all that is right? Can a avowed villain reach inside and do something for the greater good. Can an ordinary person do something extraordinary and cope with the resulting circumstances?
The answer is a resounding YES to each one of those questions.
In my experience a character (any character) should exhibit the following characteristics:
- Relatability – The most vivid characters are those who the reader can relate to. Having a villain that is relatable gives the reader a jolt when they prove their intentions. Perfection is impossible in this life, having a flawed character is infinitely more interesting.
- Flaws – There is nothing more irritating than a character that exhibits no flaws. A facade of perfection creates suspicion. We see examples of this in real life. Families hiding trauma and abuse under the facade of perfection. Personally, I find perfection to be highly suspect in life or in literature.
- Situation – Making the reader understand the characters connection or non-connection to the current situation is important. This can be drawn out, but without a point of reference, the reader is lost.
- Description – The reader wants to know what the character looks like, how they act, what triggers their issues. Description is a delicate proposition. Too much is annoying, to little is disappointing. Finding that balance is so important. Remember the simple rule of show don’t tell.
- Expectations – Don’t let the reader become complacent with the characters. In real life, people learn and grow all the time. I have found that outside influence can trap a person into a stagnation. It’s the same for characters.
Am I saying I am perfect in my character development? No, but I’m working hard to create characters that can entice the reader and engage them.
What are your challenges when it comes to writing characters?