Weekly Editor's Letter:
Fictional Character Development
Character Development In Fiction
If any of us are students of Writing Fiction, then we certainly are familiar with The Elements of Fiction:
Point of View
Style, Tone, and Language
Symbolism, Allegory, and Image
Today, I am addressing the element of fiction that involves how to develop fictional characters. Basically, I am trying to figure out how to give my characters’ character.
Again, Academically speaking:
The process by which an author presents and develops a fictional character is known as Characterization.
Protagonist: A story’s main character (human or not)
Antagonist: The character or force in conflict with the protagonist
Round character: A complex, fully developed character, often prone to change
Flat character: A one-dimensional character, typically not central to the story
But… I believe there has to be more to developing a fictional character than just the academic elements that are found with a Google search on The Elements of Fiction.
Fictional characters are often like strangers to readers (and often strangers to an author), until a fictional character becomes fully developed.
Just like when we meet a person for the first time, our first impression is based on visual clues (i.e. gender, age, body build, and hair style).
Painlessly Peeling the Layers of an Onion
Literally - Deconstructing a Character
Visual – a characters appearance
Aural – the sound of a characters voice (accent, choice of words, tone, volume)
Olfactory – smell (her perfume, his cologne, smoker, or garlic breath)
Tactile – the actual feel of a characters skin, or feel of a characters clothing (heavy, scratchy wool, silk, satin, or cotton)
Writers’ use Imagery:
Visual imagery Imagery of sight
Aural imagery: Imagery of sound (e.g., the soft hiss of snow skis)
Olfactory imagery: Imagery of smell (e.g., the smell of day old beer)
Tactile imagery: Imagery of touch (e.g., bare feet on a hot sidewalk)
Gustatory imagery: Imagery of taste (e.g., the spicy taste of Cajun food)
Character Development Takes Time
Time is a factor when getting to know people, and in developing friendships or not, fictional character development takes time as a story unfolds.
Just as we are all individual and unique people, a fictional character needs to become as flesh and blood as possible, which will allow readers to be able to relate to the character in the context of a story.
How a person reacts in any given situation is usually based on an individual’s experience, and the same is true with fictional characters. Every question that a writer asks, and can answer about the characters in their story enables the writer to make a fictional character more real in the minds of readers – a saint or sinner, a victim or criminal, a good guy or a bad guy, a Goliath or a David.
We all know that interrogating people when we first meet them is rude, but as writers’ we are obligated to our readers to know as much about our fictional characters as possible, so we can dispense with manners and niceties, and get on with Character Development through the interrogation process.
Every question is one more layer of the onion, so to speak.
Ask, Know, But Don’t Always Tell
What Writers’ Need to Know, But Readers’ Don’t
As a writer, the more you know about your characters enables you to actually write your characters reactions, your characters feelings, your characters physical, emotional, and psychological responses to the other characters, and situations in your story, but if you, the writer, furnish all the details of your characters’ your readers will be asleep before they finish reading the first chapter.
No writer deliberately writes with the intention of boring a reader to death, do we?
I usually try to always remember to give my fictional characters a birth date.
Birth dates are generally assigned one of the twelve ZODIAC SIGNS.
Okay, I’ll admit it – I am basically lazy.
Each of the twelve Zodiac signs generally has a complete list of character traits that I use to assist myself when I’m developing a fictional character’s personality.
I’m an AQUARIUS.
Aquarians are born any time between January 20 – February 18, of any given year.
Character Traits of an Aquarius:
Unconventional - Independent - Inventive - Progressive - Humanitarian - Friendly - Impersonal - Intuitive - Erratic - Eccentric - Rebellious - Sudden - Self willed - Original - Revolutionary - Unusual - Unpredictable - Avant-garde - Innovative - Unexpected - Forgetful - Alone - Unique - Disruptive - Informal - Futuristic - Scientific - Electrical - Detached - Unemotional - Free spirited - Humane Altruistic
I don’t always tell a reader a character’s birth date. I just use the Zodiac signs as a writing tool, and I thought that I would share that with the readers’ of the Writers’ Circle Newsletter.
And I believe all of you are intelligent enough to figure out the little added complexities given the influence of the Sun and/or Moon signs – depending on how much character structure and intentional control and design, as a writer, you want, or need to take to develop a character in your story.
Studying the Zodiac in order to develop a fictional character is a wonderful method to use in Fictional Character Development, and it is also very productive procrastinating.
And for Advanced Procrastinators - don’t forget to explore ASCENDANT Sign, MERCURY Sign, MARS and/or VENUS Sign applications to character development.
Didn’t any of you every read, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus? Personally, I thought it was brilliant.
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Gail stormed into the office muttering something about the fact that John just made a complete ass of himself.
Who is John? Who is John to Gail? Why is Gail saying he is an ass?
You tell me!
This is not that hard. We all know people who act like an ass. We either work for them, are related to them, married to them, divorced from them, or gave birth to them.
Develop a Fictional Character with the personality of an ass, as you, the writer, perceive an ass to be.
Please create a static item, using elements of imagery, and whatever other writer tools you have. Write a paragraph, or a page or two that demonstrates characteristics that would make a reader agree that John is a total ass. E-mail the link to me. I am personally awarding gift points.
How many? Depends on how good I judge your character development to be. I may or may not use submissions in a future Writer's Circle Newsletter.
It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up again.
- Vince Lombardi
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Edited by: The Critic
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Next Week’s Subject: Community Involvement… just kidding, I don’t have a clue.