Welcome back to the second installment of my preptober series! How was week one of planning for you? Did you write a premise or a synopsis? Perhaps both? If you’re not sure what I’m even talking about, perhaps you should check out the first post I wrote for this series.
Today I want to talk about character development. You’ve thought through the core of your story, what it’s going to be about, and part of that means who the main character or possibly characters are going to be. But there’s one fact that I want to get through to you today.
Your characters are everything.
Rarely do you hear someone say they loved a book for the a certain thing that happened in it. No. The reason people fall in love with books is because of the characters.
It’s the handsome villain that we hope will get a second chance. The sassy heroine that we root for. The geeky side character we wish was real.
It’s all of these and more. These are the reasons we love books. And that is why I want to take a whole article on character development. Because, without a sympathetic character, you might as well scrap your book. Characters are the reason we read. They are the make it or break it point.
No pressure, right?
Don’t sweat. It’s not rocket science. Your character is already in your head and in your heart, the main thing is to listen to them. It’s as simple as that. However, I have a few ways to help you really get into his or her head along with all of your side characters. Hopefully with the tips below you can create unique and relatable characters that readers will be fangirling all over the place about.
Ready? Let’s get started.
People can make character development overly complicated. It doesn’t have to be that way. When I’m developing my characters, I like to start out with a character questionnaire. (Though sometimes I don’t even go to this hassle.) It’s all up to you and how deeply you want to get to know your characters.
When I first decided to fill out a questionnaire for my characters, I got on Pinterest and chose a random one I found. But… I quickly ditched it. Maybe you can Google and find the perfect questionnaire for your characters but, for me, I found the majority of the questions unnecessary. I mean, why do I need to know what their favorite food was or whether they preferred the city or the beach? These questions are rarely relevant to the story.
That’s why when I found Abbie Emmons writing templates, I flipped. I immediately fell in love with them! Especially her character questionnaire. If you’re interested in them, check this out here.
The purpose of a character questionnaire is for you to be able to get to know your character at a detailed leveled. So, yes, sometimes the questions will seem silly (not as silly as their favorite food!). But they are there for a reason. And, as you start writing, you will find that those questions were actually a lot more helpful than you realized. I feel this is a great place to start when it comes to character development.
The Desire, Fear, and Misbelief
Once you know better what your character likes and dislikes as well as what their personality is, it’s time to discover what truly makes your character tic. This is called their internal conflict.
To do this, you start with finding out your character’s desire. What do they want more than anything else? What are they actively seeking after? In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s desire is to marry for love and not for wealth. What is your character’s desire?
Once you figure out their desire, you flip that around and turn it into their fear. What are they afraid will prevent them from getting what they desire? What is holding them back? In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s fear is that her conscious lack of “determination” will prevent her from getting married.
After you decide on the desire and fear, last you mash it together and create their misbelief. Their misbelief is the way they view the world and why they think they can never get what they desire. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s misbelief is she thinks she is a good judge of character. (Which she obviously isn’t since she so completely misjudged Darcy. A lesson well learned. *happy sigh*)
This all may seem very confusing, it did for me at first. But once it clicks, it clicks and it is a life changer for character development. Once you know your character’s internal conflict, you basically know their entire story. Or, at least how they will react throughout their story. Because once you understand their desire, fear, and misbelief, you will know why they do what they do and why the external plot, whatever it may be, is so important to them.
And readers will fall in love with them.
There are many things you can do to help you develop your characters. You may like something better than me and visa versa. There is nothing wrong with that, I think it’s great for each writer to find what works best for them.
I feel as though I try something different every time I plan a novel. I enjoy this so I can try out different methods and find which ways work best for me. What I described today is thus far my favorite method. What’s yours?
What is your character’s desire, fear, and misbelief? How do you develop your characters? How is preptober coming along for you?