5 Steps to Improve Character Depth
Let me just start off by saying my teen's are awesome! They absorb all the information I give them and this week was no different. We talked about Character Depth and how it connects readers to characters.
So, what does character development mean exactly?
It’s the process in creating a person in a story and the changes this person goes through in the story. Changes are the key. What? How? Why?
A few basic rules before getting started:
From the website: Church is an intelligent, immortal cat who was rescued by a Shadowhunter in 1878. He is usually a grouch, unless being petted, and usually does not let anyone carry him without some struggle. Jem is the only human Church has shown affection for and taken a true liking to. The cat served as a guide, as he always seemed to know where everyone was at all times.
HERE ARE THE 5 STEPS OF STRONG CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT TO CREATE MEMORABLE CHARACTERS IN YOUR NOVEL:
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR CHARACTERS & THEIR ROLES IN THE STORYYou need to know who the main people in your book will be. It’s important to identify not just who they are – but also what their roles are in the book. Even minor absent characters can have important roles. Such as a father who died while the main character was an infant. Did he leave a lesson behind for the main character to learn from, such as learning from past mistakes, career goals, family secrets? The father is no longer alive but a memory of him and his mistakes and/or achievements could set as his character development and add to the main characters plot.
Whatever lesson you may learn here, learn this, clichés are old news. Think of how you feel when you’re reading a story and the characters act or do something cliché. It’s irritating, right? Think of the “Wicked Step-Mother” or “Insta Love” or even better “The Chosen One.” Pass!
Allow your character to stay true to themselves and their stories.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT EXERCISE:
When developing your characters ask yourself these questions:
STEP 2: GET INSIDE YOUR CHARACTER’S HEAD
Really get to know your character inside and out. Dig deep to get to know them. You may not need all this information for your story, but it’s helpful to know. Here are some example questions you can ask to get to know your character:
What do they look like?
What’s their pets name? Are they allergic to pets?
What’s their favorite color?
Who is their best friend?
When was the last time they went on a date?
What style of clothes do they wear?
Do they have any special jewelry or accessory?
Where does your character live?
Does your character live with anyone else?
What are their dreams?
What is their current living situation?
What is their favorite food?
REMEMBER: IT’S NOT JUST DEFINING THEM IN THE BEGINNING – IT’S THEIR JOURNEY AND WHO THEY BECOME!
Whatever genre and plot you have developed for your character remember the important thing, readers want to see changes in the character's personality and behavior.
STEP 3: RESEARCH!Research is a vital ingredient in setting the stage for your character. To get true depth, you want to research everything possible about the setting, plot, time, etc., of your story. Even if it is a topic you know a lot about, fact-checking never made a fool of anyone.
Do know there should be a limit. Have you ever fell down the rabbit hole of link click after link click? In a perfect world, I’d like to say no but that would be determined as a lie. Do accurate research, but in a necessary timely manner.
STEP 4: STRONG DIALOGUE = STRONGER CHARACTER DEVELOPMENTDialogue is an important part of almost every story. It’s how your audience connects to the characters, major or minor. That connection is what will lead a reader to stay or move along to someone else’s story. How might you add strength to your dialogue, you wonder? Consistency is one key factor.
Consistency is an important key element when it comes to writing dialogue, especially between characters. A character who has a sudden change in attitude or life perspective can be a bit of a turn off for readers. It can cause confusion if there is no reason for the sudden change.
If a character’s attitude and voice needs to change for your story, make sure it happens gradually and with resolution, which allows your reader to understand and sympathize with the character.
STEP 5: SHOW, DON’T TELLWho hasn’t heard the rule of thumb in writing Show, Don’t Tell? There’s a reason you’ve heard it so much. It’s true. It’s vital. It’s what makes a book thrive. If there was one rule of thumb every writer needs to know and work at it, it’s the show, don’t tell rule. Here’s why:
Example of telling:
Jimmy went to the store. It was hot.
This is an example of showing:
Sweat poured down Jimmy’s brow as he made his way down the cracked sidewalk. The heat was even causing the strongest of materials to become brittle and break. His body felt heavy, his skin slick with sweat. He dreaded the walk back home from the store with an arm full of groceries. It was a miserable day to be running errands.
Scenes and emotions are very important when you are writing. It helps readers see more, feel more, and ultimately get attached to the characters and their story.
PRACTICE THIS BY DOING THIS SIMPLE EXERCISE:
First Lines and Such
I do my best to teach my Teen’s every aspect of writing. I want to be the best Mentor I know how to be. Yesterday, we talked about first lines and paragraphs that captured us and drug us into the story effortlessly.
The biggest stressor I push: this doesn’t always happen right off the writing pen.
I am 32,000 words into my current WIP and after yesterday’s lesson was inspired by the exercise we did. I went back and sure enough, I spruced up that opening.
“Funerals were made for rainy days. Days when the sun wasn’t shining with life and the clouds were a blanket for our sadness. Maybe that was why I didn’t cry at Mama’s funeral. It was too bright to feel the coldness of death. I wasn’t sure, but as I stood there watching her casket lower into the earth, I was acutely aware of not feeling anything at all.”
Could this change again? Possibly. Right now I’m happy with it. The lesson learned, the story can change as it grown, as you grow. Don’t force it. Don’t rush it. Just let it flow.
Writing Exercise To Practice Opening Scenes:
1. Pick a first line from any book.
2. Pick a scene from a magazine.
3. Create your characters.
4. In 4 paragraphs, set the scene and let me see these characters.
Writing my thoughts and experiences one post at a time.