What Are Some Tips for Character Development?

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Answered by: O'Brian, An Expert in the Fiction Writing - General Category
Writing can be difficult enough as it is without added complications, and developing interesting and believable characters is just one such wall that you may stumble into. Here are a few tips for character development to add layers and depth to your story and to make you a better writer.

No matter what genre you're writing in, it's fully possible to create characters who are believable no matter what supernatural, science fiction, dramatic, historic or graphic novel situation they find themselves in. The key to writing well-rounded characters is to first give them human characteristics. Who were they before they entered your mind and demanded that you to breathe them to life on the page? What are their hopes, dreams, fears, passions? What kind of music do they enjoy? What is their least favorite food? Although you probably won't include all of these details in your story, especially if you're writing a standalone novel, the better you know your character, then the better the reader will be able to connect and relate with them.

Characters must go through trials. They must be tested, changed, ripped apart and smashed back together again. But that doesn't mean you have to force them to endure as much physical drama and obstacles as they think they can bear, it can be something as simple as deciding to go to work. How many times has a seemingly unimportant event caused a massive series of ripples in your life? People are shaped by simple and indelible occurrences that alter who they are both psychologically and mentally. Sometimes those changes last only a day, and other times they continue to effect us until they day we die. Gain and loss are two excellent areas to explore that can shape your character for the better or worse.

Subtlety is a wonderful tool to use when developing characters. Small events and seemingly insignificant people shape the present and future of your characters, make them change and want to change their lives without fully knowing why. Small ripples can mount into massive waves. Subtlety is good not only for characters, but for the reader as well. Don't smash the reader over the head with certain traits about your character, and don't remind them on every page. Trust that the audience is intelligent enough to decipher why James only reads the Sunday paper in the park. Give your character a little mystique and allure to draw the reader in.

Rather than focus on developing your character only in the scope of the story, you should also write short episodes that allow you to explore the character and for the character to explore themselves. These episodes can be as simple as going to the store or as complex as being forced to save the life of their worst enemy.

Following these tips for character development and coming up with some of your own are great ways to get your story off of the ground. If you ever find yourself stuck, don't ask yourself what happens next, ask your characters. You are the storyteller and they are the story, so listen.

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