I don’t count myself an expert at developing characters but I reckon I’ve got a good idea of how to do it. Having covered this type of exercises in university classes and through my own exploration of discovering my characters at home, over the past 6 years, I have come up with a set of things that, in my mind, need to be established about your characters (all of them, even the minor ones) in order for you to know them well.
This information may not go into your story at all, but it still needs to be thought about in order to form a well rounded character in your mind, so then you are able to know how they would react in any situation.
I have been using my own set of information, as well as some character developing sheets from blogs on Pinterest in order to know everything there is to know about my characters and how they fit into my stories. Personally, I print off sheets for each character and use a lever arch file per novel so that I can keep all my character profiles, chapter titles, blurb, plot progressions and key points for chapters all in one place.
The most important parts of your character to identify in your novel are flaws, quirks and virtues. No one is solely good or bad, it is never that black and white. In order for your characters to seem real and alive then it is important to reflect this in your story – antagonists have redeeming qualities the same way that protagonists have flaws. Within the first part of your story it is important to give the readers something to relate to about your protagonist – this could either be giving them something to sympathise with, like an abusive family, or by demonstrating something good about them, something that will make the reader invested in your character. This applies to characters regardless of whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and as I have often found in my favourite novels, I tend to love the villain more. I think this is because a lot of novels have a very detailed villain (with good qualities as well as bad) but they tend to forget about the protagonist and make them a saint. And remember, with an antagonist it is vital to have good reasoning for whatever obstruction they are causing in the novel – simply wanting to take over the world, is not going to draw a reader in, but avenging a dead parent might.
Hopefully this will be helpful for some people, it may not work for everyone but I find it quite necessary before embarking on a novel idea 🙂
How do you plan for your characters and or plot ideas?
My Worksheet for Profiling: character profiling worksheet