I was taking a break from writing this week after spending a lot of time on the update of my autobiography. I needed to decompress a bit and spent a little more time reading than writing. I came across Veronica Stiles, another writer and while reading a couple of blog posts, I saw one that caught my eye about character development – https://veronicastiles.com/developing-characters/.
As I read through her blog post, I formulated a few opinions… WHAT? OPINIONS?… Yes, I have them. While I will agree character development is important in the telling of a longer story, I also think it is important in the short one’s as well… BUT… I don’t necessarily agree that a character should be introduced and a “bio” of sorts should be told at the time the character is introduced. The feelings drawn from the reader should be based on what they perceive of the character. Give them too little and they dismiss them, give them too much and the opinions of the characters can convince the reader to put the book down.
Veronica is right, there are exceptions and character development is not based on a set of rules. In fact, I would argue that a writer develops his or her own rules when writing. It really depends on the story they want to tell. Sometimes, too much characterization can be detrimental to a story. It can make the story predictable and sometimes boring. I tend to look at characterization in my stories as part of the entire story. Dropping pieces of the characters along the way. It adds an ire of mystery and suspense to the story and in erotic stories can take the story in a different direction sexually.
For me, character development and dialog is major part of my stories. I spend a great deal of time thinking about the characters. Not only the aspects of their personality, likes, dislikes and quirks, but I especially think about how characters would interact with each other… this helps make the stories a bit more believable. When the shock factor is appropriate for any part of a story, that means that the initial introduction of the character is short and mysterious, but as the build up continues there are hints dropped – either by the characters actions or another character’s viewpoints. This allows me the creativity to take the story in almost any direction.
The one thing that works best for me when I develop characters is my ability to visualize the character. I will often search the web for pictures establishing a face to the characters I write about. As I develop the characteristics, I will look at the photo and determine if the characteristic fits the person I am looking at. I don’t however choose character names based on the visual representation. This is done more from actually seeing the name on paper.
Again, everyone is different and my way of looking at names is different from Veronica’s. Not better… just different.
I have also written novels that are made up of short stories – the progression of the story also lends itself to the progression of the character development, but the one thing I try not to do is focus on the character’s physical appearance from a build stand point. Clothing, hair color, eye color… sure, these are always part of the story, but height and weight are not usually part of the story unless it is necessary. It allows me to be part of the story as an observer and puts me at their “eye-level.” By not expressing the physical dimensions, I can let the reader develop the character in their own mind and if the story is well written, they can insert themselves into the character based on the reader’s own physical characteristics.
I do agree with the character mapping and linkage. It is important to show how the characters, meet, what their opinions are of the other characters and how they will progress throughout the story. Especially in a story that teaches a lesson.
When it is all said and done, characters are an extension of the storyteller. The characters are the story in most cases and their development is part of the story, but should never be the entire story or the story is not worth reading.