Stay in Character: How to Develop Characters & "As the Crow Flies" in 2019.
Plot is important. Theme is important. Strong prose and original ideas are important.
But characters are the most important. If you don't have well-developed characters in your story, everything else will fade and falter. Even if you think plot is more crucial to a book, your characters still have to drive the plot...so perhaps it is a chicken & egg scenario.
This blog post will have two elements to it. The first part I'll talk about how to know your characters and some important things to remember when writing people that...well, aren't you. The second part is the As the Crow Flies characters if they were people in 2019. This was a fun character exercise that I'll talk about further down!
Here are some quick tips to help you while developing characters!
-If you are in your first draft, you don't have to have an exact idea of who a character is. You get to explore them in the first few drafts. Before you begin, you have the outline of who this character and as you dive deep into drafting, you get to color them in.
-No one wants to read about a cardboard cut-out. I've seen lots of characters that are "strong" or "brave"...but that isn't the same as having a personality. They can be brave and strong, but maybe they also love singing, they talk too loudly, they are nervous around strangers...everything that makes someone real and gives them depth.
-Have them stay true to themselves. This doesn't mean there shouldn't be any character growth or arcs, but make sure they don't suddenly turn into a different person.
-Diverge from tropes. Tropes are fun and all, but there are some many characters out there that we haven't seen. Break out of the boxes and write some really interesting people.
-Know some random fun facts about them. You don't have to ever share these with the readers, but it helps you understand who you are writing on a deeper level.
I hope these tips helped! Writing and developing characters is different for everyone, but always remember that without strong characters, the story may feel empty. (Of course, this all depends on what you write. But who doesn't love some awesome characters to follow?)
Now...time for the ATCF cast, 2019 edition! I didn't include absolutely everyone, but the main characters are there. This goes back to knowing fun facts about your characters. If you are looking for a writing exercise, perhaps imagine your own characters in a different time or AU!
Please enjoy what these idiots would be like if they were normal people.
-He is forever working on an advanced degree in history. Walks everywhere, rain or shine. Listens to a lot of Sinatra and Dean Martin. His laptop is always dying and he is constantly losing things. He loves Christmas and goes all out with candies, sweaters, and decorating his tree. He has one cat who hates him.
-He is a stay-at-home dad. He loves Pinterest and Etsy and doing crafts with his kids. He likes to feed the birds at the park. Alexander loves baseball and baking. He is the dad that would accidentally leave his kid at the store and has to apologize with cookies.
-She is studying to be a lawyer, while balancing her family life. In her limited free time, she does martial arts. She completes the crossword puzzles in the newspaper all the time and secretly loves alien conspiracy shows.
- She teaches French at a local university, but is that one teacher who seems way more interesting than she lets on. In her personal life, she collects art and is a certified scuba diver. She loves music and is teaching herself to play the drums.
-He translates things for museums and libraries, working mainly from home. Crow loves grocery shopping and singing in the shower. He is the best at gift giving...and no, he doesn’t shoplift the gifts. He once got in a fist-fight with a soccer mom at Target. Crow is constantly trying to get the fireplace to work. He has one cat who loves him.
-He seems like he is in the mafia, but he works as a doctor. He is always very well-dressed and has a modern apartment, which he lives in with his husband and their greyhound dogs. People look at him and think supervillain, but he’s actually a sweetheart who loves putting sweaters on his dogs and buying bath bombs.
-She is mysteriously wealthy. She owns her own private plane, which she does fly. Gazala can usually be found wearing a very chic suit. She has a pet snake and despises the cold. She throws a wild New Years Eve party every year and has never told anyone her middle name.
-She spends her days in an art studio, making things that she will never sell. She likes to make glass and she likes to sketch. She lives by the sea, with her husband, and still hand writes letters. She never hosts any holidays or parties, because she hates large gatherings in her home. She loves games, of all kinds.
-He is a therapist, but he doesn’t officially practice. Instead, he volunteers at youth shelters and helps people who have experienced trauma. He used to do some modeling on the side, but hated it. He lives with his husband and their dogs, where he cooks all the time and always forgets to make the bed.
-She is a journalist. She has a deep passion for long biographies and she can always help with math homework. She wins awards for her gritty way of telling the truth. She has developed a love for hockey, but she cannot skate. Her home is cozy, she takes care of her small family, and she yearns to collect typewriters.
This helped me understand my characters even more and defined their personas, even if it will never, ever come up in the books, more clearly in my head. I highly recommend trying an exercise along these lines!
Until next time,