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Developing Character: an Overview
While characterization is integral to forming a bond between your characters and readers, it cannot stand alone.
The true essence of a person is shown in the decisions that they make and the consequences, whether good or bad, that follow. These choices are shown in written form in the doing, not the thinking about doing them, and the consequences that can follow.
Today we live in a world where many have pushed passed the lines of civility. Lying- it used to be a bad thing- is now seen in large companies all over the world as if it were the new norm. The shifts and changes we have had in our cultures, have created many changes in how people relate to stories in book form, or on screen.
We, as writers, can no longer simply have our characters make statements and have our readers believe them, any more than we can believe strangers until we have the opportunity to get to know the type of person they are.
This is why you hear writing instructors talking about “show don’t tell” in their classes. It is a characters actions that make them believable or not, depending on the type of character you are creating.
The next step is to understand that, for any choice or decision to reveal the truth about your character, it has to have consequences. And, the bigger the consequences, the more revealing it is about the character.
For example: In your creative writing if you spend time talking about what your character loves for dinner, you have not truly revealed anything about your character. Their food choices may be an interesting side note, but they have no real consequences.
If, on the other hand, you have introduced food as a way to poison or make sick, then you have some strong consequences.
Understanding the differences here will allow you to write freely while not creating a lot of extra revision work for yourself.
In order to really know a character you have to take a few more steps. First, you have to determine the characters objectives or wants. Then, you will understand how the characters choices affect the action and how the action affects the character.
Second, you have to determine the characters emotional or psychological need. This need is what opposes the characters objectives, creates tension, and flows into your plot.
In another article, I will detail each of these elements so you can use them in your writing.
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