Editor’s note: This is the first of two articles (second here) on the fundamentals of character development written for Writers.com by our instructor Gloria Kempton, in support of a full character development course she’s developing. In this article, Gloria covers the three essential questions you should ask each character you write.
There are three questions you want to ask every character that you create:
Character Development Question 1: What do you most want?
Every human being wants something. This is largely what it means to be human. To want, desire, crave, need, cherish, chase, hunger for. Whatever your character is chasing—put it right up front, in the opening scene and make it large.
Your character should be desperate to attain this one thing. The more desperate your character is, the more the reader will engage with the story. The reader will only care as much as the character cares. The character must be willing to give up anything, go through anything to attain what he or she so desperately wants.
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Character Development Question 2: What do you most fear?
We all have fears. We don’t like to talk about them, but they’re there, under the surface, causing us to act in ways we don’t understand, driving our thoughts, words, and deeds. When we give our characters these same fears, readers are able to connect with them as if they were sitting in the same room.
Character Development Question 3: What will cause the reader to remember you after your story is long over?
We all have traits, habits, idiosyncrasies, ideas, behavior patterns that stand out from the crowd. The trait should be visual, a bit over-the-top, and hold a dramatic meaning of some kind. It should characterize—aid the reader in truly beginning to understand and know your character.
Try asking your characters these questions!
And so, give each of your characters something to want, something to fear, and something that will make him or her memorable simply because he or she is a human being.
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