Character Development

Character development is often what sets the great fiction apart from the mediocre.  And we all want to write Great Fiction, right?  No one strives for mediocrity.

So, how do you develop unique characters that readers will relate to?  Do you create character sheets that list out everything from height to guilty pleasures?  Do you just write and write and hope that the character develops as they react to different situations and stimuli in the story?  Or do you interview them in a writing exercise?  What are your methods?

Personally, I love to create a character reference sheet for each of my main characters before I ever start writing the story.  I’m a big outliner, so I use the character sheets to not only list out individual physical features and emotional history, but also to explain each different perspective on the story and how the character fits into the plot.  It’s not always an ideal system, and when the inevitable changes pop up as I’m writing, it’s annoying to go back through my character sheets and modify them–so I usually don’t.  My character sheets are often incorrect after a few chapters, so they’re basically only useful as pre-writing exercises.

And, just for kicks, here’s a funny video about the MPDG (Manic Pixie Dream Girl) epidemic:

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4 comments

  1. Kris Atkins says:

    I like to get a general feel of their personality, and of course know their basic history and what they look like, and then let things develop as I write. It sometimes takes a few drafts for a character to become really 3D, because it takes me that long to get to know them.
    You’re so organized! I’m impressed. I like how you write how they fit into the story and their perspective. I should think about that more for each character.

    • Crystal says:

      Organized… or really good at procrastinating on actually getting something written? 😉

      And I totally agree that it can take quite a bit of writing to get their personality and quirks to come out.

  2. Cara M says:

    It sounds organized to me too!
    I can’t think too hard about characters before the story, but I need some way in to what they’re doing in the story. Your way of talking about their perspective on the story seems really useful.

    Btb, I’ve given you a blogging award. The Dragon Tea Award.

    • Crystal says:

      Wow, thanks for the award!! 🙂

      Writing out the various characters’ perspectives was actually an exercise I had to do when I took a semester in the Hamline Writing for Children and Young Adults MFAC program. It has been such a helpful exercise, especially when you line up where everyone is at the start and the end of the novel, so you can see how they’ve changed and evolved.

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