What is the heart of a story? Its characters. Characters are what make the story come to life–they are what make you laugh and scream and cry over the story. Reading about a corrupt evil government? Eh. Reading about a character whose life has been ruined by said corrupt, evil government? Now things are getting interesting. 🙂
Haha, today’s WAFLE has quite a few ‘layers’, so I thought this picture was quite apropo. 😉 I want to talk about a few interesting ways to develop your characters that you’ve probably never heard of.
Okay, let’s start with what everyone does: character questionnaires. What they like, dislike, fear, hobbies, goals, etc, etc. There’s nothing wrong with making these sort of things, but usually I find myself staring at said lists trying to come up with things to fill in the blanks, but have nothing. It would be the same as if I tried filling out such a list concerning one of my friends. The things I know would be easy, but everything else is like…I don’t know this yet. And because, to me, my characters feel like real, living people, I don’t feel quite right just going ‘HERE. You’re going to have a fear of water!’ and expecting them to just go with it. People are so much more complex than that, you know?
So instead, I start looking into their stories. Not just what their hobbies are, but watching them come home from school and plop down at a desk with a drawing pencil and sketch pad, because they had a rough day and drawing things helps them relax. Or learning they have a fear of water because they nearly drowned two years ago.
See what I mean? Those characters seem more real already ’cause I’m not filling out a laundry list about them, but learning the whys and hows of it all. Nothing wrong with keeping a list, but use it more as a checklist than anything, and dig a lot deeper into your characters’ lives. You may be surprised by what you’ll find. 🙂
Before, I used to just pester my characters with questions until I learned their backstories. But truly, the best way to learn their backstories is just by writing and letting it slip out in conversation. Which is why I have found roleplay–surprisingly enough–to be a great tool for that. Not only do you get the characters mentioning things you didn’t know before, but you see a lot of their little ‘quirks’ and habits, like one of my characters rubs the back of his neck when he’s nervous. I’ll be talking more about that in a couple weeks on another blog, and I’ll provide the link to that, but for now, I’ll just leave it with this: try roleplaying with your chararacters. 🙂
One last thing I’ve found really useful as I go through Dragons’ Bane: Pictures. Pictures, pictures, pictures. Maybe it’s just ’cause I’m a visual person, but I browse through Pinterest a lot and am following a lot of people. Lots of times, going on there to search some clothing similar to my world’s, landscapes, or even just the random things people post will make me take a second look and go ‘hey, my character would totally wear/do/have that! I should add that in!’ In fact, you can see a lot of that kind of stuff that I have for Dragons’ Bane on my Pinterest board. I’ve also got boards for my different characters, with pictures that remind me of them, quotes, and other fun things. Check it out, maybe it’ll give you some inspiration too. 🙂