Once upon a time, a character appeared. No one knew this character. No one spoke to him. No one invited him inside to sit and carry on a conversation. This poor character couldn’t get anyone to notice him. He wondered what sort of world that he had come across. He wondered who he was. “Do I have a name?” whispered the man.
And though the man remained quiet for the longest time, he began to twitch here and there. Still, the man had no name. Precisely, at the moment just before he was going to give up entirely; he thought he might never have a name. Suddenly, out of the blue came a name. It was a good name. He was told by the Wise Woman of Leveda, that his name was Bucca Twofoot.
At this point in the story, you have only scratched the surface of creating a character. You’ve named the character, you’ve brought in the wise one, who usually gives the hero/main character the quest that takes the hero through all the steps of plot to create a story. But what else do you know? Not much. Are you hooked? If not, why? What got in your way? If so, why? What hooked you? These are the questions you must ask yourself for every piece you write.
Longer works can take a bit longer to hook the reader, but typically, readers may open a book and read the first paragraph. If you haven’t caused that reader to want to read more, they likely won’t buy the book.
This article is about character development, which is the first building block of fiction. What constitutes a character? Inanimate objects, such as setting and environment, plus animate beings like humans, animals, etc. can all become characters.
Even a poor plot can often be salvaged though strong character development. When writing, you have to paint the picture of who, what, where, when, why and how for both character and plot or even down to scene in novels, where you most likely are dealing with multiple characters.
Because novel-length fiction is longer and has more complicated plot arcs with as many as three different plots that intertwine, you end up having quite a few characters that you are pulling together. Typically, what happens is you may begin to write in characters on the fly. This leads to poor characters and more flat or two-dimensional characters, which doesn’t hold the interest of readers.
One way to avoid that is to create a Character Profile, which might be more like a Character Checklist or even a Character Sketch Survey, for each character. Printing out these profiles and keeping them in a binder will help you keep track of which character is which. It will also keep you from developing almost identical characters or characters with the same or similar name.
Especially if you are writing for children through young adults, it is important not to create characters that begin with the same sounds. Having John, Jim, Jerry, and George in your story can create chaos to the reader, because it is hard to keep track. Early readers and people with certain disabilities need distinctly different names to enable them to comprehend that these are not the same character, which would be quite confusing.
To help writers with character development, there is a Character Checklist as a FREE gift for registering. (See right-hand column.)