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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Character Development - Hold on Loosely

Recently I began taking a writing class.  Because you know...I just had sooo much free time on my hands, I felt like I needed to fill it with something.  Actually...I wanted to take it way more than any of the college courses I’m taking.’s a WRITING class.  I LOVE writing.  Biology...not so much.
Anyhow...It’s being taught by author Candace Havens (you should absolutely check out her work!  ) & I am only a week into it, but I can tell it’s going to really give me a push in the right direction with my literary endeavors.  (See...using professionally sounding verbage already)
Our assignment this week partially focuses on character development.  Now, as we all know, I am not yet a published author...heck, I’m not even finished with the first manuscript...but I am an avid reader, and for me...the characters pull me into a story quicker than the plot does.  I’m easily fascinated by a complex character.  Characters can make or break a novel.    
One of our questions this week was “What do you want your characters to say to the reader?”  My first response was that I want my characters to say “I am real.  I exist.”  I want them to get in the reader’s face and say “Do you get it yet?  Don’t you want to know more?”  In other words...I want the reader to feel so engrossed by my characters that they think of them as a REAL PERSON.  Someone they know.  Someone they can relate to.  I want my reader to become emotionally involved.  To me, THAT is what will make my characters come to life, make my readers want more.
The truly great characters aren’t the perfect ones.  They are flawed.  They have limitations to overcome.  They have to grow into who they are meant to be.   If they were perfect...well, they’d just be completely unrealistic and boring.  I don’t like boring.  Not in real life and not in my writing.  Besides, perfection is highly overrated.
So, in order to try to keep my characters as imperfect as you and me...I use the character development tools that I’ve acquired and refined over the past year or so.  I have a few that help me flesh out the deep, dark complexities of my fictional entourage. The one I always start out with is my Character Development Sheet (click the link to download it & use it yourself).
I’d love to be able to give credit where it’s due, but the truth is...I got ideas from so many different places, Frankenstein would be jealous.  Some thoughts are mine...some are from other minds far, far away.  ( nice...I can hear you from across the state line – my mind isn’t THAT far away)  Regardless of the sources...hopefully the final product will be useful.
Planning your characters out is majorly important.  You need to know how their personality factors into the story, how they will move the story along.  Just like in’s hard to know which way to go to get where you’re going, if you don’t have some direction.  Your character needs direction.  However...don’t smother them.  Hen pecking your characters will only turn them into teenager-like mutineers who roll their eyes at you and make faces behind your back when you try to force them in a direction they don’t want to go.  You have to let them be free to express themselves and find their own paths sometimes too...much like teens.  Hold the reins too’ll lose them.

Thoughts to ponder...
If a cow laughed would milk come out of its nose?

If a turtle doesn't have a shell is he homeless or naked?


  1. You know....for a moment I had to think back to what in my ramblings about characters would make you scream about nudity. Then it hit meant the turtle. :)

    My mind was so easily persuaded to think about some hot hero...well..not fully clothed. I should be ashamed of myself.

  2. Lol! That reminds me of a Bonnie Tyler song … Holding Out for a Hero; although I don’t remember the Hero running around without a shirt on in the song.

    I’m new to your blog and I enjoyed this post considerably. I found you on Crit Partner Match and I’m intrigued. I would enjoy getting to know your work if you are so inclined as to let me visit from time to time.

    And that cow joke!!! I tell it all the time and it floors me that you tell it too. That one and this …. If a mime swears does his mom wash his hands with soap? ;)

    It’s nice to meet you!


  3. Mel,

    Welcome!!! I sooo remember the Bonnie Tyler song. Sorry...but now I'm singing it in my head and yes...I'm envisioning my main character hero saving the day sans shirt. Thanks for that. :)

    Love the mime joke! I'll have to remember that one.

    Now you have inspired me to get back to my blog. I have been so neglectful of it lately. Life really does get in my way sometimes.

    So glad to have you along for the ride.