I can’t give you any sage advice on developing characters … I’m not exactly an expert writer! … but I’ll give you a bit of insight on how I do it.
A note: this is for if you have the plot and not the character. If you had less idea as to how the plot is going to play out, it would be impossible for you to develop a character in the same way.
How I developed Posy, a new character I created for Ivy Inquisitive, which I will be writing in November.
1: Ask yourself “Why do you need this character?”
Answer: To resolve an important issue in the book. (I’m not going to tell you what!)
If your answer is, “Because it’ll be so fun to write the character I have in mind,” please seriously consider forgetting said character. 🙂 See my earlier blog post on this subject.
2: Write down, briefly, what details you already have about the character’s life (not appearance, personality, etc.)
Answer: Posy Parker is the daughter of Steven Parker. Her mother, Lydia Elton, died when she was born. Her father was unable and unwilling to care for her, so she grew up with her paternal grandfather, a retired naval officer, on the English seacoast. At six (the beginning of Ivy Inquisitive), her father took responsibility for her.
Onto this, I also added few details that would reveal important plot points that I don’t want you to know yet.
3: To fill her role in the story, what will Posy have to be like?
Answer: a spunky, tomboyish little girl who always gets up after she falls down without complaining of her scrapes. Very persistent and full of questions that she’s used to having answered.
There! That’s all there is to it! You’ve got your basic character. Simple, right? Now, you can give your character a name (if you haven’t already), appearance, deeper backstory, deeper personality, etc.
Many people fill out forms for each of their characters. Now, I have a very complicated character sheet that I used to use when I wanted to have a ton of details about a character.
Here it is in case you’re a detail-person (or unhealthily obsessed with your character).
Age in Story:
Relationship with (each brother):
Relationship with (each sister):
[then you can add a section in for grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.]
Hair color, length, style:
Eye color and expression:
Height and weight:
Details about face:
Other Notes on Appearance:
Athletic? Inactive? Overall health?:
Style of dress:
Memories about childhood:
Where does the character live at the beginning of the story?:
Where does the character live in the middle of the story?:
Where does the character settle in the end of the story?:
Basic nature and personality:
Strongest and weakest trait:
What does the character fear?:
What is the character proud of?:
Outlook on life:
How does the character see himself/herself?:
How is the character seen by others?:
What is he/she doing at the start of the story?:
What does he/she do in the middle of the story?:
What does he/she do in the end of the story?:
Difficult decisions the character much make:
How does the character change in the course of the story if at all?:
I occasionally have even added more details onto the sheet … but I’ve long-since given up using it. Instead I use this:
Kellyn’s Character Sheet:Full Name:Birthdate:Gender:Physical Appearance:Personality:
place in Story:
One Fun Detail:
The reason I use this is because I can use as few or as many details as I want.
For Posy:Full Name: Posy Mariah Elton-ParkerBirthdate: March 4th 1867.Gender: female.Physical Appearance: shoulder-length, slightly curly medium-brown hair. Flashing brown eyes. Slightly tanned/sea-weathered skin with a sprinkling of freckles about her nose.Personality: a hardy little tomboy who questions everything.
Place in Story: the daughter (and savior) of Mr. Steven Parker.
Family: Parents: Steven J. Parker and Lydia R. Elton-Parker (who were first cousins). Paternal Grandparents: Steven Parker SR. and Patricia Elton-Parker. Maternal Grandparents: John Elton and Lydia Wells-Elton.
Biography: Her father (Steven J. Parker) was raised by his mother’s family because his father didn’t want to care for him after his mother died during childbirth. He fell in love with his cousin, Lydia Elton, and married her. She died during childbirth leaving Posy. Similarly to his own father, Mr. Parker was unable and unwilling to care for Posy. Like his father, he didn’t want anywhere near him because he was sure she was the cause of his beloved wife’s death, so she was given to her paternal grandfather, a retired naval officer, to be raised as Mr. Steven Parker SR saw fit. When Posy turned six years old, her Aunt Lois (mother’s sister) decided that it was time Posy was taken away from her ‘rough’ grandfather and turned into somewhat of a lady, so her father came for her.
One Fun Detail: When encountered with an emotional difficulty or stuck in an emotional scene, Posy clearly states a random fact such as “Whales can’t breath through their mouths.”
That was easy! Now you try it!
p.s. Questions/comments? Don’t be afraid to ask or give your opinion!