Monday, November 21, 2011

Character Development

I have finally gotten into a nice groove, reading and revising one chapter of my WiP on most nights (alas, not tonight).  Spending sixty to ninety minutes just with those few pages allows me to taste and digest each sentence, to let each word sink in and find its place - or hang out of line and scream for a replacement. I have reached the point where this task at least feels easier with each re-draft.

As I labor over the language, I also keep my eye on my characters.  Are they fully developed?  Are there any holes?  Are they real or at least believable?

The following "checklist" has helped me:
  • Are the character traits that are relevant to the story fully covered?
  • How about irrelevant traits that nonetheless enrich the character?
  • What are the character's strengths and weaknesses? Vices and pet peeves?  Are they shown or told?
  • Do glimpses of the character's past explain his present? Is he too predictable?  Or too random?
  • Are his thoughts, actions, speech, and interactions with others synchronized?  Should they be?
  • What are the character's physical characteristics and are they relevant?
  • How do his relationships with others define his personality? 
  • Does the manner and content of his speech evoke his personality?
  • What are his motivations?
  • Is there too much of me or someone I know infused in the character?
For some of my characters I wrote a resume - that really helped with the concrete aspects of their personality (where they live, what they do for a living etc.)

I'd love to hear about anything I missed!


  1. Great questions and I hope I remember some of them as I go through the revisions in my manuscript. Right now I'm taking a few days off for the holidays. Best to you Eva!

  2. Oh the last one is something I have the hardest time with. I tend to put myself in a lot of my main characters and I'm trying to get away from that!

    Great list you put together!

  3. Thank you both for your thoughts! I agree with Nicole too - I tend to do too much of that.

    All the best,

  4. This is a really great checklist for character development. I always try to throw an oddball question in for my character, it helps round him/her out more. For example, on one of my character logs I have the question: What movie would the character play in? Although this may never be addressed in the story, it allows the character to become more real in my own mind, helping me write a better character.

  5. Hi Christina,

    That's a really great idea! I'm definitely going to have to try it. It may help discover "hidden" traits.

    Alles Gute,