Writers spend a lot of time focusing on the main character (MC), particularly if the story is written in first person. But what about the secondary characters? The best friend? The older sister?
Sometimes when a scene with multiple characters isn't working, it can be helpful to think about the action from another character's point of view. If the MC is arguing with her best friend at lunch, you may have a good handle on the MC's emotions and the events that led up to the argument. But what about the BFF? She can't be manipulated to say what you need for the plot to move forward. She should be a believable character with her own set of emotions and actions. What if she was telling the story? What happened during her morning that might be contributing to the argument? What is she feeling about the MC? You wouldn't necessarily add all of this background (and probably shouldn't, in most cases), but working on the supporting characters can help a scene-gone-wrong.
This Saturday (October 11th), I'll be a participating author at the Collingswood Book Festival speaking on a panel about Developing Characters in Realistic Fiction, working with teen writers during the Young Writers Workshop, and signing books. If you live in the area, come say hello.
Because I missed a Friday Five post last week, and because I've been thinking about character development for the upcoming panel, I thought I would share ten resource links that provide exercises and checklists for developing characters.
Character Development Exercises from author Sandra Miller’s website
Sample: “Your protagonist and antagonist each write a letter to a friend or family member (or you!) about the other.”
Character Exercises from The Script Lab
Sample: “Write a monologue (1 page) that accurately portrays your character. What is he/she feeling at that moment? What is his/her hopes? His/her fears? What does he/she love? Hate?”
Character Exercises from Writing Exercises
Sample: “Write ten 'factual' statements about your character, then ten lies, then ten odd/bizarre statements.” This site also includes a random character generator you can use as a starting point as well as generators of random dialogue, scenarios, town names, character traits, jobs, etc.
Take Your Characters Out to Lunch: 5 Development Exercises from Lit Reactor
Sample: “…create a Pinterest board for your character by selecting images they might be drawn to.”
Create-A-Character Exercises from The Writer’s Craft website
Sample: “Collect mannerisms…. Pick an emotion and for the next few days, track it in the people that you see….How do different people show that they are bored; how do they disguise it?”
Building Character: A Checklist from Nieman Storyboard
Sample: “Ambitions,” “Most important thing to know about this character,” and “What trait will make this character come alive, and why?”
Larry Brooks Character Checklist from Procrastinating Writers
Sample: “Is the character a giver or a taker in life?” “What lessons has the character not learned yet in life?” “What is the worst thing the character has ever done?”
Character Creation Checklist from My Writing Journey
Sample: “Do they have anything about their appearance that they try to hide or disguise?” “How do they dress?” “How do they move?”
90 Things To Know About Your Characters Before Writing from Writing and Illustrating
Sample: “Does your character collect anything?” “What annoys them?” “What makes them laugh?”
Getting to the Core of Your Characters by C.S. Lakin from Live, Write, Thrive
This isn't a checklist, but an explanation of three things to ask to understand your character: “Their core need (and what they would do if they couldn’t get that need met,” “their greatest fear,” and “the incident(s) that wounded them early in life that got them believing a lie.” Visit Lakin's website to learn more.
I hope you find these resources useful in developing your fictional characters. Please add other related links or your own insights in the comments. Happy Writing!
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