Character Development

Something I think all writers struggle with at some point in their career. If your characters aren’t likeable or believable, you run the risk of losing the reader.

With the first session of Camp in full swing and on the downhill slide, there’s been a lot of discussion on the Facebook page I’m on about characters and how to write them. Some people talk about writing scenes with things they think their character would do and then shifting them in where they fit best. Other writers, write linear – from Page 1 until The End.

I’ve tried both ways and found that linear works the best for me. The first book I wrote, I knew exactly, I mean exactly, how I wanted the book to end. It was a huge, gorgeous wedding scene around Christmas. Ruby red bridesmaid dresses with white sashes and hunter green vests and ties for the groomsmen. I could see the whole thing in my head. Wrote the entire scene – don’t remember how many words it was, but it was a decent length scene.

The closer I got to the end of the book, the more I couldn’t see them getting married. At least not at that point. Turns out, they never even got together one I went through several more rounds of edits. At the time, it confused me and I mourned the loss of that scene that I’d fallen in love with, it hurt to think it would never be used.

It took quite a few years before I read an article that had the best description about how to reveal your characters to your readers. Think about a new person you’ve just met. Most (if you’re lucky) don’t tell you their life story when you first meet them. You learn their story as you spend more time together. A huge info dump at the first meeting will probably bore you, and make you run for the hills. Or in the case of a book, set it down and not want to find out more.

I think this is why writing linear works best for me. I’m too much of a pantser to fully flesh out a character before I start writing. I’ve tried that too, and it so didn’t work. Just like life. We plan out how we want it to go and the universe, or the people in the universe, throw us a total curve ball. Now, I work with a basic outline of where I want the story to go and I let the characters tell me what they want to do.

Most of the time, it works. Just like our friends and ourselves, you never know what the characters are going to throw at you. Most of the time it’s fun trying to figure out my characters. Sometimes, it’s frustrating as all get out. But then again, don’t we have friends like that too?

What insane curve ball have your characters thrown you?



4 thoughts on “Character Development

  1. I certainly agree with your sentiments. In the many contest entries I’ve judged, half the time I go through pages of info dump before I get to the story.
    I’m a linear writer too as well as 90% pantser. I write about 50 pages and then create a simple, one-page outline to make sure I have a story arc, lots of plot twists, a really black moment and a satisfying resolution. Not that hard to do. Thanks for sharing your process, Mel. *hugs*

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