For a long time, I struggled with developing characters for my stories. It was not until I began to write stories for other people's Characters i.e. Fanfiction that I learned the ins and outs of creating a good character.
In “The complete writer’s guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes,” authors Tami Cowden, Carol LaFaver and Sue Viders outlined the major characteristics of our heroes and Heroines. Witch for the males are:
CHIEF, BADBOY, BEST FRIEND, LOST SOUL, CHARMER, and the PROFESSOR.
For the women, they are BOSS, SEDUCTRESS, SPUNKY KID, FREE SPIRIT, LIBRARIAN, WAIF, CRUSADER, and the NURTURER.
The book goes on to tell you about the mixes of each type and the type of character they would be. It’s an incredibly helpful book and breaks down all of the technical nuances of character development.
For me, it started to connect with fan fiction, because of having to think of whether the established character would do what I want her to do… or what circumstances would make him do my bidding. Needless to say… practice, practice, practice. I became able to put myself into the character’s shoes.
So how do you do it? I find my character first. As I am female… my main characters tend to be of the female nature. I think about her, and what situation I want her to go through. I think of her ultimate outcome, and then I outline.
This is an example of one of my characters from my novel “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Anjulee Andrea Major… with her, it all started with a person whose last name was a rank. This was going to be a story about a Lesbian in the Military. Her rank was staff sergeant… and the play on words made it pretty cool. After that, I wanted to create a person that could be really tough. The name helped... hand her position a Drill instructor didn’t hurt either. I know by having been in Basic training myself, you don’t think of your drill instructor as being human… at first. You are kind of afraid… so I needed to be truly intimidating. So she was incredibly tall, beautiful but a very angular face so that when she meant business she could make a man cower by just a look.
I also gave her a passion, which was music. She always has it, and whatever she listens to reflects her mood. I gave her vulnerability, she has a big mistrust issue with men… she doesn’t hate men… but she doesn’t trust or respect them either. So far she is not so likable… and seems a bit too withdrawn… I needed her to be approachable too, so her off-hour personality is that she is light-hearted and very open minded. She has no prejudices, and if you show her yourself, she may not trust you, but she has no reason not to take you at your word.
I had all of this before I set pen to paper.
You ever hear a writer say that their story wrote itself? It really does… In your imagination. A writer only organizes the visions they see into coherent words. I found as I wrote the novel, the story headed in directions that I had not anticipated, and as you go, your characters reveal themselves to you.
The only other thing I can think that is important to character development is getting someone who understands your vision of the character and ask them to read the story to help you flesh the character out. It is easiest with fanfiction because your reader is usually a fan of the genre and will post questions to you that they may have concerning the situation the character is in. They may not understand a reaction the character has displayed and can make you see what needs to be worked out.
That’s it for now… Happy writing.