7 Steps to Well Rounded Character Development
Characters are the life of our stories and so it’s important to get them right. We don’t want flat characters, stereotypes, or clichés. You can have the best, most exciting plot, but it will fall flat if peopled by weak characters. So how do we develop our characters?
- Start with personality. Is she an extrovert or an introvert? Does he have to meticulously plan things out or is he impulsive? What do they do? What’s their job? What’s their hobbies? What do they do for fun? Start developing their personality. As a quick guide you can use the Myers-Briggs personality types as a quick sketch of a character. This is great method to quickly and easily build a character. Work down to the details so you know how your characters will react in any situation.
- Make sure your characters all have a story goal they are working towards. Not only does this develop your characters, but it also pushes the plot of your story forwards. Even give your minor characters a goal to work towards. It may even go against what your main characters goals are. This is good. It creates conflict and tensions which are vital to your story.
- Also give your characters flaws. Real people are not perfect and if you want your characters to have depth and be relatable, you need to make them realistic by giving them a flaw. And don’t give them a meaningless flaw like being clumsy. The flaws you should give should challenge your characters and affect how your characters interact with the plot. Both your protagonist and antagonist needs to have a serious flaw. They should be evenly matched in both abilities and weaknesses to keep your tension high. After all, if your protagonist can easily win, why should we bother to read on?
[bctt tweet=”Developing a character? Give them a meaningful flaw to make them realistic and relatable. #amwriting #writingtips ” username=”hijinkswriter”]
Know your characters’ pasts. Get down to the details. Most of this won’t go into your actual story, we don’t want to info dump a lot of backstory and slow the plot, but it will inform how you write the character, so it’s important for you as the writer to know. But remember your story is about the present, not the past. But the past affects us and the actions we make here in the present, so know your characters well.
- Don’t forget to develop the character. Meaning your characters should grow and change throughout the story. This doesn’t have to mean change for the better. In fact, tragic arcs have the characters devolve instead, usually due to a fatal flaw. These arcs are usually called positive change arcs and negative change arcs. Using these arcs in your story develops your character and adds depth to the whole story. If you want a dynamic story, you’ll want dynamic characters, and that means characters that change. Certain serial characters can get away with being static (unchanged) such as Sherlock Holmes. But if you are writing a series instead of a serial, I would say you need dynamic character arcs. We should be able to see how and when the character changes.
- Not every character needs to be fully developed. You’ll have minor characters and even smaller roles that don’t require too much to write. The Myers-Briggs personality types can help with that. You’ll need less backstory for a minor character as long as you know how their past affects them now. MBTI types give you a solid personality to work with and build a character on, especially a mirror character. But what changes do occur; what epiphanies does he have along the way? Who are they now?
- How do your characters grow? How do they redeem themselves from unforgiveable acts? Choose a character flaw, choose a character goal, and write a full character sketch. Use Myers-Briggs types to write characters unlike you.
These are good tips to get you started writing full dimensional characters. What are your tips for writing characters? Share below and happy writing!