Friday, November 8, 2013

How to make your character’s believable. – James Shipman @jshipman_author

How to make your character’s believable.

I love character development.  I truly believe that strong characters are far more important than events to tell the best possible story.  So the question is how do you create these characters in the first place.  I like to start by making a list of the major and minor characters in the story.  The next thing I do is create a chart for each one of them.

Before I do a detailed analysis I then think about people that I know, and decide if any of my story characters can have similar personalities or at least similar traits.  I also try to have at least one or two characters in each book that have mental health issues, particularly personality disorders.  Characters are sometimes created very two dimensional.  They have a purpose in the book and they march through from point A to the purpose point, then march back out the other side.  Humans don’t act that way.  Not only do humans fulfill purposes but they also have their own goals and desires that might be completely at odds with what the author wants them to do.  Even deeper, they may have limitations that prevent them from achieving their own goals, and these limitations may send them on a third trajectory.  The more you have thought out and explored this level of detail, the richer your characters will be, and these struggles will add more detail and depth to the overall story.

After identifying the 30,000 foot issues for the character, I spend several hours with each one adding every possible detail.  I not only want to know their date of birth, height, weight, features, education, etc., but I want to know family relationships, where they’ve worked, things that have happened to them along the way.  Most of these details will never come into the story but if you don’t understand your characters on a very deep level, your readers will never engage with them.

The hardest part of writing a book, particularly a first book, is having the patience to develop the characters (and of course the outline of the book) to this level of detail.  We all want to get to the writing, but the more you leave unfinished the more you will find inconsistencies and lack of depth in the finished product.  It will take far more time and work later to try to rewrite a character and reweave them through the story, because you didn’t prepare enough at the beginning.    Best of luck to all of you and happy writing!

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Genre – Historical Fiction

Rating – PG

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