Characters are the lifeblood of any story, regardless of its purpose or plot. Your readers cheer for the good characters and wish horrible, disfiguring deaths upon your villains, assuming you’ve created dynamic characters with whom your readers can identify.
If you find that character development is your weakness as a writer, know that you aren’t alone. There are plenty of authors in the world who are masters of the plot but who cringe at the thought of creating dynamic characters. To help you with this obstacle, here are ten questions you should ask yourself when you begin creating dynamic characters for your stories. Ask each question for each of your characters.
>What is the heritage of your character?
Often, the third dimension of a character can spawn from his or her heritage. For example, if your character is a third-generation Irish immigrant, you can build upon that heritage to create a unique character. In your own life, you are surrounded by a “melting pot” of different cultures, so bring those experiences to life in your characters.
>What is your character’s happiest memory?
This is a question that will get you thinking about your character’s history. For the purposes of your story, the characters didn’t just materialize in the world with no backgrounds-they came from somewhere. Often, bringing to light a memory of your character will help to solidify his or her worth to your story.
>What is your character’s worst memory?
Ah, and we come to the “dark past” that often haunts the main characters of best-selling fiction. If your character is motivated to fight vampires, catch drug dealers or excel in the ice dancing championships by a significantly painful memory, decide what that motivation is before starting to write.
>What are your character’s positive traits?
Even villains can have positive traits-characteristics that make them just a little less evil. In the real world, even serial killers are polite or forthright or cunning or religious, so align positive traits with each of your characters to make them three-dimensional.
>What are your character’s negative traits?
Just as villains can have positive traits, your main character (the hero or heroine) can have negative traits. Maybe he or she is too meek or too bold, or perhaps your character is far too ambitious. Assign negative traits to even your most angelic characters in order to give them that dynamic reality.
>What is your character’s fatal flaw?
In a good fiction story or novel, a fatal flaw will lead to the conflict of the story. This isn’t necessarily an entirely negative trait, but it’s one that gets your character in hot water. For example, maybe your character always finds the good in everyone, which gives him or her a misplaced trust in the villain. Be creative!
>What is your character’s hobby?
Everyone has a hobby, be it stamp collecting, playing basketball or collecting expensive action figures. To create a more dynamic feel for your characters, come up with hobbies for each of them. Hobbies can be off-the-wall, like collecting vintage Rubber Duckies, or more static, like riding horses.
>What words does your character say over and over?
We all have little speech favorites, like whatever, like, you know, and others. Characters in stories can likewise have words that they overdo, and those habits will help identify them to readers.
>What is your character’s favorite color?
This might seem like an odd question to ask, but just about everyone has a favorite color. Your readers just might identify with a character whose home décor, vehicle, clothing and accessories are all purple. It’s dynamic.
>What are your character’s life goals?
The final addition to a dynamic character is his or her goals in life. What does he or she want to accomplish? Work goals, family goals, financial goals and just about anything else can add an extra dimension to your character and make him or her more real.
These questions are not all-inclusive, but hopefully they’ve got you thinking about your characters. Take these suggestions a few steps further and get your creative wheels turning in the direction of dynamic characters.