Another attention-worthy subject for our workshop here is the development of character. Creating characters is a struggle for most writers. When writing poetry the focus is on specific and minimal characteristics to form the person in a moment. That brevity does not carry over when writing novels and for writers used to selecting qualities to suit poetry, character development could be even more of a struggle.
As I’ve come to learn, developing characters for a novel is a highly involved process. You want depth to the characters, you also want them to be likable. You want the character to develop as the story progresses, but you want the character to be developed enough from the beginning to draw in reader’s attention.
There is one thing many writers shy away from that actually serves to develop the depth in a character: flaws. In many cases writers want their characters to be loved, sometimes it may be a development of the writer himself, attempting to create an extension of himself using his own best qualities. I think many writers are reluctant to make their characters with faults, but faults drive the depth of a character.
Writing flaws into a character makes them relatable, it makes them real. Your character will make mistakes, have quirks, and be more defined as a result. When a writer chooses specific faults as part of the character design, the writer begins to better understand the character. When a “perfect” character is placed in a situation they can react in any number of ways, but given depth by faults the character will react in their own unique ways.
For example, a protagonist with a loner tendency thrown into a social situation is not going to be graceful, or possibly even nice to others at the party, even if they are nice within their small circle. Maybe they are in a bad mood which leads to a confrontation.
Faults help drive conflict in the story, and thus the story as a whole. Given faults, characters are able to evolve, which means they may be well enough developed in the beginning of the story to grab the readers attention and still carry enough depth and development through to the end.
One of the most powerful tools for a writer is their relationship, involvement, and knowledge of the characters they create. Go ahead and talk to your characters, put them situations, develop who they are and you may be surprised as to what they you in return.
As I began writing my Angel/Demon novel, I spent a lot of time just with the characters, kind of feeling them out. I put them in situations and tried to imagine them reacting on their own. I tried to give them life. As I continued writing the book, dialogue between the characters seemed to take control of itself. It seemed like there was no other way a character would react, because it was natural. It surprised me that the faults I had developed into them became essential for how my plot progressed. One character in particular, a demon, one of the semi-antagonists, really surprised me. It surprised me how, with all the terrible things that he has done, all his faults, -and he is terrible- for some reason he is undoubtedly very likable. Maybe I’m just a little psycho and enjoy the bad guys, but I think because he has so much depth you get to see all the shades in-between good and bad, making characters form a love/hate bond with the readers.
At least that’s what I hope translates when I finally finish the monster.
Anyways, faults are good, faults are character, depth and give life to your writing.
And my thinking face…