Character Development Through Obscure Dynamics

Character Development Through Obscure Dynamics
June 28, 2017 No Comments » For Authors, Writing Advice Tiffany Woodbeck

The power of a good dynamic—it’s what propels a character arc forward. A strong dynamic can captivate a reader. These are incredibly complex, shifting from positive, to negative, to neutral, and back again. The most notable form is between a protagonist and antagonist as well as the main character and supporting characters. There are those that appear less significant or aren’t always clear. Many are obscure enough they may never be shown.

A substantial portion of character development is behind the scenes. For instance, the author could have pages of notes on the main character alone that the audience will never read in the books. What they know, that you don’t, adds a depth that is visible within the story. It makes well developed characters compelling and relatable. That process doesn’t just stop at the more prominent ones. Used as a plot device, these can be utterly inspiring to discover.

Different types of dynamics

A good plot will have multiple dynamics for each character. Some are weak, some powerful. Around any one person are a slew of family, friends, merchants, acquaintances, and random strangers. The best, speaking as a writer, are the ones the reader wouldn’t expect to change anything of importance. They are the key to the unseen plot twists—the twisting blade that catapults the story to greater heights.

Behind the scenes

Each character within the story should have a purpose. That boy selling loaves of bread? He could lead a secret life of crime, which influences another unknown character, and another, until the chain reaction affects the core plot. The blind woman might overhear the antagonist speaking with conspirators and eventually reach the main character to reveal the nefarious plans. Or, they could be selling bread and minding their own business, only placed in the story to move it along. The point being, dynamics can influence the hero’s journey in a myriad of ways.

Plot devices

A plot device is a tool writers use to bring the book’s potential to fruition, taking any aspect and directing it toward its end goal.

Saying that, there are several factors that need to be present to make a good plot device. Is it necessary? Does it move the story forward? Will the reader want to know more? If you cannot answer these questions satisfactorily, it needs to be removed, improved, or nursed back to life. The lifeblood of a story is the elements within it.

One of my favorite topics is the unsuspected plot device. It fills me with a bit of glee when I think of how something will shock a reader. (In a good way, I promise.) Everyone expects the back stories of the antagonist/protagonist to be what leads them to the last words of the book. They might look deeper, they might not. It’s up to the author to bake that level of detail into the satisfying treat it becomes. If done well, that lone bread boy could become the pivotal character within a scene, chapter, or story as a whole.

Keep looking deeper

Readers, writers—dig deep. The webbed connections between each puzzle piece need to fit in a precise way, or the progression might take a drastic sideways turn. Find those points, trace them back to their origin, and the depth may astound you.

Tiffany Woodbeck Tiffany Woodbeck is a fantasy author and lead editor at OWS Ink, living in Seattle, WA. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her gleaning random inspiration for other artistic pursuits from the people and settings around her. Formerly writing as Stephanie Reisen, she has one book published under her pen name. Luck of the Grave is the first short story in the Gravebound Souls series. Currently, she’s reworking her entire brand, including the book, to be under her real name.

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