“Change it,” he said.
I laughed, not even realizing the connection until that moment. For a moment I entertained the thought of changing the name. But, it struck me that I couldn’t. Although I haven’t started the actual writing of the book, I’ve done a lot of work on my outline and character development and, well, Jennifer IS Jennifer. She is not Jennifer by any other name.
DH said, “Well, use the name until you finish the book, then change it.”
I don’t think he gets it. Now I have the added challenge of developing my character to the point where my DH, as a reader, will be able to see my Jennifer for who she is without thinking about any other Jennifers. It made me realize, again, of the importance of character development.
Developing Good Characters
My favorite type of book to read is character-based as opposed to plot-based (although I can enjoy a good plot-driven story now and again, after all, my favorite movie genre is action, which is often done sans deep characters).
When it comes to writing, however, I find it very difficult to develop characters. I’ve done the questionnaires and role-playing, but I still found it difficult to show the uniqueness of my character on the page. I mean, your characters can only flip their hair and say pet words so often, you know?
Every writer has his/her own method of creating characters. Some (pantsers) fly by the seat of their pants and let the characters develop as the story evolves. Others say the character reveals herself without effort. On the other end of the spectrum, there are writers (plotters) who go to all ends of the earth and the internet, fill out all the forms they can find, and even interview their characters to get to know them inside and out. What is the right way? Each writer must determine that for themselves.
Know More Than You Reveal
The one common piece of advice I come across in most articles about developing characters is that the writer must know more about the character than she reveals. She must be aware of the characters motivation and desires.
PaperBack Writer says every character she imagines takes form by answering three basic questions: Who are you? What do you want? What's the worst thing that I can do to you?
Holly Lisle, in her article How to Create a Character, says don't start your character off with a name or a physical description. Instead, she says, start developing your character by giving him a problem, a dramatic need, or a compulsion. Lisle recently released an ebook called Create a Character Clinic which helps the reader do just this. It’s a step-by-step guide that offers examples and questions to help make the process simple, yet the character becomes complex.
What I found most helpful in Create a Character Clinic, is it taught me how to show my character’s unique characteristics and personality without resorting to crutches, clichés, or commonly used descriptives. And, the personality and characteristics are true to the deepest desires and motivation of the character.
Character Development Links
For those of you who would like to find out more about developing characters, here are some links:
- Developing Characters and Motive
- Loving Your Characters Too Much
- Everyone is Right: Creating fundamental motivation
- A, B and C List Characters
- Describing Your Characters Through Their Actions
- Character Motivation
- Character Questionnaire
- Working With Your Reader: Character Description
- Who Are You Writing About?
- Breathing Life Into Your Characters
- Creating Well-Rounded Characters
- Quick Character Motivation Exercise
- Keys to Characterization
- Mysterious Liaisons: Creating Characters from Life
- Characters as Actors--Showing, not Telling, Personality
- Crafting Compelling Characters
- The Plotter & The Pantser: A Writing Chat About Characterization