Home > Tips for the Spontaneous Writer, When My Plot Happened > Quick Steps To Developing Rich, Dynamic Characters

Quick Steps To Developing Rich, Dynamic Characters

A lot of writers search the internet. They seek tons upon tons of books that seemly give the same advice. Writers even turn to blogs like this one hoping they come across the holy grail of writing knowledge. Truth is, and I hate to break your heart, there is no right approach to developing characters. And I’ll say it again. There is not a single approach that’s better than the other. As an emerging writer, I’ve tried them all.

Here are a few different approaches:

Designing a character by starting with a biography and profile.

This provides you with lots of background information, so jot down everything you can think of. I mean everything. Start a bible. You’ll need hair color, their birth date, tolerances, and so forth. Your character will have multi-dimensions well beyond the start of the story. Why they eat certain foods, where they were born. Write down their most remembered experiences, because these types of moments make up our personalities.

This technique gives you a deeper meaning for your character and their behavioral approaches. The one setback I’ve had with this is that a lot of times a character’s profile information shifts as it becomes necessary for the story, so don’t be too nit-picky at first. Remember all writing requires revision.

Developing a character as the story progresses.

It is not always important to have those critical details if you understand a little about how the human mind works. Emotions are universal, and general reactions are common among humans. But if you take that knowledge, implement it, and make it as unparalleled as possible, than you’ll have designed a personality for your character.

When I use this approach, I let my character reveal their personality on-the-go. I favor this technique, because it’s more creative, spontaneous. With few details like character emotional history, strengths, and weaknesses, I can trust my subconscious abilities to work out other dynamics like dialogue and event reactions.

If you’re a perfectionist, than go with the profile approach, but if you like the realm of the unknown, shoot away.

Using real life examples.

If you design your character based on real people, be sure to get their legal consent. You can then interview them, and find out what they would do in certain situations.

There really is no real creative work here, unless you do some minor tweaks. You’ll simply center your character’s personality and appearance around your subject through observance.

Designing through research.

The way they adapt, switch emotions throughout the day. If you aren’t good at connecting with people, then now is the perfect time to go out and talk. Yes, talk. Meet someone new and pay close attention to what they say, how they react. These are all aspects of a person’s character. That’s what we need here, right? Good. Now, notice the way their lips move, the way they blink, how their cheeks become rose colored from embarrassment. Watch their hands. A person will react using hand gestures more than you’ll notice.

Pick up the aspects of love, lust, fear, and insecurities. Combine this with the techniques from above and use this within your own characters and their personalities. Try talking to your brothers, sisters, or other relatives. People have different ways of thinking, phrasing words. Learning these human qualities from life are far more realistic than doing so from movies or books. You have to remember, those writers did their own creative work and research to develop those characters. Who wants hundreds of duplicate character designs?

When you bring them to life, they should come across as unique. Reveal them through interactions with other characters. Let them grow through experience. Don’t worry. I’m sure you heard the saying, “Everything comes with time”.  Well, this is true with character design. The funny thing is, you’ve already spent a lot of moments learning your own body, and what triggers certain emotions. Unless you’re completely void of happiness, sadness, or pain, that is. Now you just have to figure out how that relates to making a character as distinctive as you.

After finding the technique that works best for you, fine tune it until it becomes easiest to utilize. Don’t expect to be a perfect character designer at first. It takes hours to become a skilled writer.

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