Digging Into Character

Character development is one of the most important parts of story writing, you can have excellent descriptions, dialogue and plot, but none of that counts for anything if you don’t have good characters in your story. This week I’m going to discuss with you’re the different types of characters, their roles and what you need to accurately portray them in your work.

First of all every character needs to have a story of their own, one that is separate from the story you’re telling but is usually important to your piece. Who are they? Where did they come from? Why do they act with these mannerisms? In order for your audience to understand and connect with your character, you need to do the same and know everything about them before you even put them in your book.

Names are often a point of interest for me, I’ve read several novels in the past where the name means something heroic or is a giveaway to some future story development. My suggestion, don’t do this. If any reader is like me and likes to get to know the character, they will look up the name and completely unravel your plot. Instead look to the characters history, where did they grow up? If they were born in America they are unlikely to have a name that is generally exclusive to another country, unless of course it is obvious they are from that country. It’s best to do your homework on names and look up a few baby name sites.

Now that you have a character it’s time to put them into the story. When you introduce them don’t give away all the details at once, keep your reader guessing. Only give them the most basic of appearance descriptions and let the audience fill in the rest, the best part of reading a novel is being able to imagine and interpret the story in your own way. Surprise them with a character quirk or two that they might not be expecting until the situation allows.

There a few kinds of characters in story, not all them are always present though, it depends on the format and plot of it.

Narrators – The first kind is a narrator; unless your story is in first person a narrator is presenting your story. This narrator is still considered a character even if they never actively participate in the story, this makes them the fly on the wall. However some narrators do interact with the story and are very much apart of it, these types of narrators are reporting what they see to the reader as it happens.

Protagonist – Of course there is the protagonist, without the protagonist there is really a story, however the protagonist isn’t always the character the story is following. The story could be following the character that aids the protagonist in their quest.

Antagonist – Then there’s the antagonist, the problem causer of the story, usually the reason for the protagonist’s character arc. These guys need just as much attention as your main characters, if you don’t know why they’re doing the big bad stuff then you need to do some more character development, otherwise the reasoning portrayed in your story will make them kind of two-dimensional.

Main Characters – The general idea about main characters is that they should be acting like the story is about them, main characters are constantly in the story, making ripples or offering support for the protagonist. The need as much development as possible as these characters are usually the ones moving the plot along.

Minor Characters – These guys don’t get a lot of the spotlight and are often only in there to make a point before they move on again, usually not hanging around for scenes at a time. They have their own lives and agendas that only somewhat brush against the main plot.

Extras – the extras are the characters who don’t have names or faces, they are there for one purpose before they are quickly ushered away again, a taxi driver for example. They don’t get any names either, that’s one more name you get to keep for later.

The final thing I’m going to discuss with you this week is their progress in their story. Did they change in some way? Did they question themselves? It is extremely important that each main character receives an arc. That is they come across some kind of obstacle that may or may not change the way they think about certain things. You also need to make sure that the reader knows where they came from and how they’ve changed.