Welcome back, my lovelies! It’s Michelle and I’m back with another Freaky Friday! Without any further adieu, let me just leap right into today’s topic. Character development. Before I get to the heart of the matter, I’d like to preface by saying the following: By no means am I one of those folks that thinks MY way is the only way. You’ll find advice elsewhere that contradicts what I tell you, I’m sure. The real secret to being a writer is to realize that no one can tell you the best way for you to do something. Learning your craft is really about figuring out all of the components of a good book, and putting them together. How you do that is completely up to you. This is just an explanation of how I do what I do.
Hold on tight, kids.
I develop a VERY general outline of the type of person I want to write about. Then I craft the story I want to write around them. Based on some of the actions of the character, I dig deep and decide what type of person they would be. I do this for my hero, my heroine, and usually the antagonist, too.. or anyone I think might make an appearance later in a series. I’ll use Ronan from Trouble Walked In as my example.
Ronan Kelly was initially supposed to be an alpha wolf shifter. I was going to submit this story to the Bad Alpha Anthology. The story I wanted to write was one in which an alpha shifter gets his universe rocked by a sassy damsel in distress. …. but way too many words later, this became the first in a series.
He was going to be the strong, silent type. A man that, in spite of his alpha status, blazed his own path. A former military man who runs a bar. It’s an informal meeting place for shifters like himself, that prefer to walk alone.
When Moira, the damsel, stumbles into his bar… she knows what he is. There’s no way this headstrong woman is going to be cool with getting it on with a shifter if she finds out about it after the fact. She’d flip her shit.
She’s terrified of him and faking bravery at first. She’s more terrified of what her father is demanding that she do, though. (Marry a man she doesn’t know). In the course of their confrontation, sexy sparks would obviously need to fly. They need to fall in love. Something earth shattering needs to happen. Then they need a happily ever after.
So.. now that I have a very very loose outline of my plot, what kind of man does he need to be?
- Wounded in some way. He’d have to have some sort of emotional scars that made him deny his nature and go it alone. Wolves are pack animals, after all.
- He owns a bar, so he’d need to be at least moderately smart, right? Can’t run a business otherwise.
- He helps a stranger in a way that doesn’t make him look like a total sleaze bag, so he’d need to be honorable, too. Even grudgingly so.
With those three key descriptors, it’s easy to start fleshing out his life. Most, if not all of what he becomes in the book, is entirely based on those factors. The actions he takes are based on the contents of his life before the book. The character’s image, the dialog, the actions… they have to reflect who he is.
From there, the story tends to start developing. Situations will form in my mind and I think… hmm. Yes. Ronan would totally do this. My antagonist would be really pissed about this development and retaliate. The characters have no issue developing themselves further.
As you continue to write, you’ll find that it becomes tougher to keep track of your names, etc. I’ve included a blank copy of my Character Database. My rule of thumb is that if you’ll ever have to revisit a character name, put it in the database. This has general character traits, lists any special attributes I’m going to give them, their occupations.. where I plan to take them in terms of spouse and number of kids if any. Physical characteristics like tattoos, scars, etc. Feel free to liberate, modify, use the doc however you wish. 🙂
Hope my mindless rambles have helped you in some fashion. I’ll catch you crazy kids next week! ❤