Tuesday, March 1, 2016

We Write Books: Character Development

As I shared last week, I've started in on my "snowflake" of Crossfire, my dystopian novel. At this point, I've done more plotting than I've ever done. I have a one and a half page write-up of my story's plot and my characters are...

Well, they're being my typical characters. They have a tendency to think a lot like I do. Which means they all think similarly and that sort of destroys the idea of them all being separate people.

That's not exactly good material for a novel.

That being said, I'm  proud of myself for how much effort I'm putting into planning my characters right now. Last time I tried the snowflake method, I decided to just start writing the rough draft at this point. (Of course, that was partly due to the arrival of November 1st. But I could have started planning earlier.)

So far, I have three documents set up for planning my novel. I know, it's crazy! One is for my general overview (one paragraph of plot and then a list of all of my characters with a one sentence character arc), one is for my lengthier plot description, and one is for my growing character development list.

Each character has a story arc that's a couple sentences long, what lie he/she believes, what he/she wants most, what he/she most fears, and a list of flaws or weaknesses.

The lie the character believes is a concept that I stole from Go Teen Writers. I never really understood it before, but something clicked inside of my head this time around. 

Most of my characters believe lies about themselves--that they're the only one who can do x, for example. However, some characters believe lies that other characters have told them. 

I'm surprised by how useful I'm finding the concept to be and I think it's really going to help me shape my characters more realistically. If John Doe believes he's the only one who can do x, he's going to attempt to do x on his own, even if it seems a little illogical. He doesn't have to be impulsive to do this, either. He's just following what he  thinks fits in with reality. 

My next step is to write the story from each character's view point. I'm a little daunted by this task, but I think it will really help me to get inside of my characters' heads a bit more. I'll keep you updated!

How do you brainstorm and develop your characters? Do you use a character chart, character journals, or do you just wing it? 

Please be aware that it may take me longer than normal to respond to comments on this post. 


  1. That's excellent that you're getting into your characters' heads a little more this time around. I hope it helps you to edit Crossfire a little easier, or at least make the story make a little more sense to you.

    I hate it when all your characters turn out to be mirrors of yourself :/ While I'm not a huge fan of his books (even though his vlog is excellent), John Green said something about being trapped in your own consciousness, and you can never truly experience what it's like to be someone else. That's a hurtle every writer must try to overcome. So good luck :)

    (And I'm quite interested to see how you're going to finish up with Connor and Rebecca. I can more or less guess how things will end with Luke, Tara and Rickson, but Connor and Rebecca are a mystery to me. I'm assuming they also convert, but how you're going to do that without making it cheesy is beyond me. I couldn't write something like that (hence why I don't tend to write Christian fiction)).

    For me, I tend to wing it when it comes to characters. For "The Creature of the Night" and "Zoe+Death, BFFs" I totally pantsed the characters and they turned out fine (I think), while with "Formulas" I planned the characters out and they were less than spectacular. Or that might be because I'm still in draft 3. I don't know :/ I'm actually using the Snowflake Method to plan my next trilogy (yes, I'm working on 5 books at the same time. Querying, editing, then planning the trilogy. I know, I have issues) based on your recommendation, and I'm loving it. EVERYTHING MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE. I even put the character pictures from Pinterest into my document. (It's so beautiful <3) So we'll see how that goes.

    Sorry for the extremely long and verbose comment, but thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. No, I love hearing about how everyone else writes!

      One of my pet peeves with Christian fiction is when everyone ends up a Christian in the end, so I plan to avoid that situation.

      Right now, I'm planning on making it a trilogy and leaving it (somewhat) open-ended. That also will hopefully avoid the above situation without making it too sad. After reading "The Inheritance Cycle", I've become a really big fan of series that leave some questions unanswered at the end. (Also, Paolini needs to hurry up and write another series, but that's something for another day).

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. I tend to just wing it... I focus on the plot, then let the characters develop from there. As a situations arise (such as a protagonist arguing with a neutral character) I start to add the backstory and motivation (for example: the protagonist doesn't agree with the neutral character. Why is that? Maybe more than just a simple disagreement... Something in his past?). Then I go back through a second (and third/fourth/nth) time to add in these developments to the earlier portions of the story. Maybe not the best idea, but when I plan out my characters from the start, I wind up having to twist the plot to match, and that never winds up with anything good (one time I wound up completely butchering the end of a manuscript because I wanted a single character trait to come through.) That said, my organization winds up being very similar to yours, with multiple word documents for reference as I come up with backstory and motivation...

    1. I foresee putting too much effort into my character planning as a possible problem. I've never put this much thought into my characters prior to writing before. In general, I'm a plot-first novelist. So I could definitely see myself running into a situation such as the one you describe.

      Ugh, I hate it when you get to the end of the story and it's hard to finish it/it ends up not coming out the way you want it to.

      Thanks for the comment!


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