5 Ways I Develop Characters

   I have strange methods for developing characters. Or maybe, 'unusual' compared to other writers I know. I don't go down the route of filling out lengthy personality/character questionaires with questions like age, favourite colour, appearance, etc. Those, for some reason, don't help me connect to my characters at all. 

  Every writer has a different way of developing their characters and stories. There is absolutely no wrong way to do it, only the right way for you. So today I thought I would share 5 ways I develop characters in case you'd like to experiment with some new methods. 


  1) Character Interviews

   I know, I know, this seems really similar to those character questionnaires, but the way I do my interviews is in first person, not third. I like to write them from my character's perspective as if I was writing a story about them going to an interview. I include everything from how they act before the cameras roll on, during, afterwards, their thoughts, everything. This really helps me find the voices of my characters. (And what they would lie about...)

  If you'd like to see a simplified version of how I do my interviews, I recently did one with Mercy.

   2) Tension Maps

   I also call these Relationship Maps. I'll get a piece of paper, write all my characters down from one novel (a little spaced out), and draw lines between them. Usually I have four categories: romantic, friends, acquaintances, and enemies/strongly dislike each other. Each one I'll do in a different colour, and maybe write a reason why their relationship is like that.

   I find this super helpful when writing a scene, because I can pull it out and get a feeling of who tension would be between in a conversation. It can also make interesting relationship dynamics between a group of people.

Quick snap of Safe-House's tension map
   3) Make Their Strength Their Weakness

   Any strength can also be a weakness. For example, loyalty. It can be an awesome trait in a character when they stick by their friends, but what if they're so blinded by loyalty they fail to see what their friends are doing wrong? I don't necessarily make all my characters have their strengths be their weaknesses, but I like one or two to be in order to create a depth of personality.

  4) Define Their Fear

   Not just the fear of snakes, or eating apples, or similar fears. I mean finding their deepest, darkest fear that they try to hide--even from themselves. We all have one. What if I'm not good enough? What if I'll be forever alone? What if I fail? Both characters trying to avoid this fear, and trying to tackle it, create huge story conflict.

Fear is a powerful thing
  5) Write Them

   Seems a little obvious, doesn't it? But apart from these four ways, my best way of getting to know and developing my characters is just to write them. Get fully immersed in their personalities, responses and conflicts. First drafts always bring more to light about a character than all the planning in the world can. 

How do you develop your characters? Do you love character questionnaires or do you have similar methods to me? (Or are you both!) What has been your favourite character ever to write?

Comments

  1. Great tips :D Thank you so much :D I like the relation maps idea :D

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    1. Thanks Hana! I'm glad you liked my ideas and found them helpful. :) Thanks so much for commenting! XD

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    1. Hi Citra. Thank you for following. I will make sure to check out your blog :)

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  4. I do really lengthy character profiles for all of the main characters in my stories, and whilst I find that really helps me, I don't generally feel really connected to them until I start writing. I really like the idea of conducting first person interviews with them though, and I like the idea of the relationship maps - I'll definitely have to try that out, so thanks for the tips! Great post, as always :)

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    1. Thanks Laura! :D Yep the actual writing of them is when I feel most connected to my characters. I can certainly see how profiles can help you get a basic grasp of their personalities. Thank you so much for commenting! <3

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  5. My honest favourite way to get in touch with my characters is to just imagine scenes with them. I barely do any questionnaires ever.😂 FAILING HONESTLY. I do like to outline their fears/strengths in my outlines, but otherwise, since I'm such a big planner, I just imagine the scenes and see how they react. And my 1st draft is really full of getting to know them. I like how you have several different methods! THAT IS AWESOME.

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    1. Thank you Cait! I wish I could imagine scenes like that, but I'm not very good at planning at all. XD Outlining strengths/weaknesses is very helpful, especially when considering character arcs. Thanks so much for commenting! :D

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  6. Interesting ideas, Melissa. I like to fill out character questionnaires, but I often do it as an interview. I especially like your strength/weakness idea. But I too find the best way to know a character is to just write.

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    1. Thanks Rachel! I'm glad you thought so. It's great you have your own method for getting to know your characters. Interviews are great, aren't they? But of course nothing can beat writing the characters. Thank you so much for commenting! <3

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