Whether you’re creating fiction or reading it, character development in fiction is what turns the cogs and makes interest happen. In order for fiction to capture the minds of those who read it, an author has to devote a serious amount of time to the construction, and continual change of a character, or set of characters. As a high school English teacher, I know first hand that many young writers struggle with the development of character. It’s for that reason that I’ve put together the following list of things to consider when developing new characters.
Every Action has a Reaction
In order to truly be able to implement your character, you need to understand how your character would act in a variety of situations. Keep in mind, your character, as far as yourself and your readers are concerned, are living breathing people. Imagine your character’s reaction if he/she were to accidentally run upon a snake. Would they stay calm and collected, or would they lose their cool? Knowing your characters well will shine through in your writing.
Physical Detail- Don’t Overdo it.
Yes, it’s important that your readers gain a mental image of your character, but you don’t need to dedicate an entire chapter to your character’s appearance. Give your readers some interesting information and move on. Every one needs a face to put with a name, but a sentence for every freckle isn’t needed.
Flaws are Required
Character development in fiction requires one thing above all else- make certain that your character, or characters, aren’t perfect. In order for your character to take part in an interesting conflict, your character needs flaws. If he/she is perfect, they will solve their problem quickly and move on. Unfortunately, so will readers. Character flaw allows readers to sympathize for your character and watch them grow.
Avoid the Stereotypical
It’s difficult, but avoiding the stereotypical is a must. Creating and developing unique characters hinges on your ability to be creative. It’s OK to garner ideas from other sources- I get them all the time- but a character should not be ridiculously similar to another from a similar genre. Use these ideas to form a base and twist them until they become living, breathing people that are yours and yours only.
Don’t Start at Rock Bottom
Readers won’t be interested in your story if your character has nothing to lose or gain as a result of the conflict. For example, if you’re going to start your character as a billionaire who has the perfect life, a story about that character winning the lottery won’t mean a whole lot. Likewise, if your character already has a miserable life to begin with, one more problem won’t interest readers a great deal. Just be sure to balance your character’s lifestyle with the conflict at hand so that your story is of interest to readers.
Character development in fiction can be a very interesting and fun experience, but if you want people to read your work, it has to be done correctly. Develop characters that people remember and characters that are specific to their personal experience with your story. Who knows, you may just create lifelong fans.
Interested in fiction? Jonathan Howard is a high school English teacher who authors an online site dedicated to the craft of creative writing. Click the following link for more on character development and to read OTMM, the sci-fi/fantasy thriller.
About Jonathan C Howard
I’m an author and English teacher who lives in Eastern Kentucky. I think being a nerd is awesome, and anyone who doesn’t think so likely secretly thinks lightsabers are epic. I spend a majority of my time writing and promoting my Sci-Fi series Of Things Man Made- go read it!