Day 3 – “C” Character Development
Particularly when working on longer pieces, I am a slightly obsessive outliner. For my novels, I have notebooks filled with lists and charts, descriptions and dialogue, and all manner of scribbles and scrawls. Certainly a part of my Type-A personality that I embrace, I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I have a certain element of my writing planned out, enabling me to tackle the actual writing with a plan in place, and the knowledge to get it done in an effective manner.
One of these elements of planning encompasses character development. I become very connected with the characters I write about, almost as if they are close friends of mine. I feel that if I don’t understand everything there is to know about my characters, I cannot tell their story in a genuine and authentic way, and my readers will know that what I’m trying to tell them about this individual is utter bullshit.
I map out everything about my characters, obviously more so for my main characters. Physical details like hair color, height and weight, and physical characteristics that stand out; likes and interests such as reading, fishing, hiking, or music; relationship history; family trees including siblings and descendants; personality traits and characteristics such as introvert vs extrovert, loyal to friends, and a sarcastic sense of humor.
All of these details are vital in ensuring that I understand everything about my characters to portray them in the most honest way. There is, of course, SO much more that goes into thorough character development. But making lists, creating diagrams, and binge-writing these details helps me get the ball rolling.
Writing without thoroughly developing my characters (and all other components of my novel for that matter) leads to pure and utter chaos. I absolutely hate making stuff up as I go along. Even if it is the most basic of outlines, I need something to get me going. That being said, I understand that as I write, my characters will grow and develop, and things will most certainly change and evolve as that particular piece of writing starts to take place. But I need some kind of road map to get me going.
What do you do for character development? Do you develop your characters as you write, or do you outline and plan as I do?