Friday, January 26, 2007

The Importance of Character Development

Dear Dead Beat,

I sometimes think my characters are too 'flat'. Not real enough. Is there anything specific I can do?


Dear Wondering,

If your characters are too flat, just get a pump and inflate them.

Okay, that it were that easy. But hold on what do characters consist of?
Characters are described mainly through their thoughts , speech and actions. The difference between thoughts and speech (dialogue) is very important since what we say and what we think are often entirely different things.

We certainly use description and details to describe what our characters look like, what they wear, eat, what music they listen to etc. but our characters' actions will reveal far more about them - actions and reactions - we can make stereotypical judgements about people based on their dress, their music interest etc. and we can be very wrong in our judgements. If we observe their actions and reactions, we learn far more about them.

So focus on the important aspects of character developement. For sure know the type of clothing they would wear etc. and be consistent but work hard to understand their actions - why they do what they do -

And here's a point - characters need to be consistent to be credible - however what truly makes a character interesting is when we reach that moment of inconsistency.

We expect the character to respond in a certain way - their spouse expects them to respond in a certain way - but he or she responds differently - now the character is very interesting and the reader is engaged - Develop consistency to amplify that all important moment of inconsistency.

And yup, character is all. No matter how good your plot is, or your passages of description, if your characters fall flat or are not credible, human nature being as it is, the reader will lose interest.

Readers read about characters to learn more about themselves. We are a selfish breed no doubt about it!

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