Writer School: Character Development

September 12th

Kelli Draper

How do you create characters who are interesting, fun, memorable and also human? It isn’t easy. There are plenty of examples of great characters in literature — those who are so unique you can’t help but remember the story because of the person.

A few examples from my favorite books:

Edgar Mint

Owen Meany

Garp

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Nancy Drew

Each of these personalities brings complexity to the story. For the most part (perhaps excluding Nancy Drew), the reader sees both the good and the bad in the person. If the person is all good, you are quite possibly writing a super hero story. But hey, even contemporary takes on Batman show us he isn’t entirely pure and good.

So, how do you create interesting characters? I cut ads out of magazines and answer a basic questionnaire for each of my major characters. I like having a visual, and I like to know what the character loves, hates, fears, is annoyed by, etc. I get into detail in the character interview that often isn’t included in the story, but is important to me to consider when I am writing. I organize these in a three ring binder and use it often when adding details about my characters long after I’ve started writing the story. It’s a memory cheat — did my character have blue or green eyes? Does she have siblings? Like dogs? Allergic to bees? It is important to your reader to keep the details consistent, at a minimum. And if you are writing a serial, I would guess those interview questions would grow exponentially as you get to know your characters more with time.

(Also: if you are writing a serial — it makes sense that your characters will change slightly with time. They will also have new faults.)

Who are your favorite literary characters? Do you have a difficult time with character development?

 

~K

P.S. A few favorite tv characters: Don Draper and Peggy Olson from Mad Men. Tony and Carmela Soprano. Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation. Liz Lemon, 30 Rock.

Posted in
Writer School
Follow the comments.

2 Responses

  1. Have you read Cuckoo’s Calling or The Silkworm yet (JK Rowling’s new mysteries)? The detective character is such a great example of great character development! He has so many interesting tidbits from his past, his physical appearance, etc, that are woven through the story.

Leave a Comment: