Friday, July 14, 2017

5-Points to Character Development

How to quickly flesh out characters without making them walking quirkboxes!

Not every writer has time or desires to fastidiously develop fictional characters. Some writers seek efficiency. The benefit of crafting characters who’re able to hit the page running is so the writer can finish stories faster and more likely achieve Pulp Speed!

Here is a 5-point approach to character development without depending on histories/backgrounds, plug-and-play stat sheets of traits/quirks, character interviews, or similar.

This is for high-speed writing, not intended to suit every need or unreal/surreal characters.

The Five Points

  1. Characters exist Independent of their Setting:
Whatever world or genre the character lives in, it doesn’t matter! A successful character can be set in any universe or genre and remain consistent in their attitude and nature.

  1. Characters are Real:
Use personal observations to create real characters. Readers should be able to recognize themselves in characters, not through identity labels but through the interactions the character has. Think of the character as some guy or girl you know with the same plausible weaknesses and strengths that anyone could have.

  1. Real Characters have Emotions:

Have them experience emotions like people do, express this to the audience as if the character is an actor with stage directions, and they come alive. Don’t try to astonish readers with cleverness, instead emotionally move them with simple truths and brief descriptions. Let real emotions fight with one another and in moments of action, let one emotion clearly dominate over the others.

  1. Avoid Apathy:

When it comes to characters, don’t focus on apathy (lack of emotion). Most readers want to empathize so don’t skimp on having a character deal with fear or other powerful emotions; these moments must exist boldly. Characters can’t be listless phantoms drifting through events without emotion influencing them. They become real by being emotionally engaged.

  1. Physical Appearance:

When it comes to character description, there is a balance to achieve. Description should be as close to the character’s introduction as possible and afterwards minimally interjected. Offer readers a sketch rather than detailed analysis, woven into the story through a character’s actions; this gives them a sense of realism while also providing intrigue.

With these five elements, grab a name, gender, plug into a role, and run with the character! Everything else - background, stats, quirks, etc. - can happen later, but you won’t need them if you’re hitting every one of these five points.

(credit: image by carlosvelasquezart. Robert Turner's 1948 Pulp Fiction pamphlet.)

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