Yeah I said it…character development sucks.
I guess I don’t truly believe that. In fact, I actually love character development. It’s one of those things that stays the same throughout all the different genres. Whether you are writing a sci-fi novel or historical fiction, you will need to have well thought out characters. These are the people your readers will come to love, like, loathe, or relate to.
Think about one of your favorite novels. Or if you aren’t really a big reader, think about one of your favorite movies. Now think about one character from that book or movie that really spoke to you. Have you got one in mind? That’s because the writer spent time developing that relationship for you.
I fell in love with my character Pia quickly. Before I even had time to develop who she was truly, I was attached to her. In the half hour that I spent writing the original short story that my book is based on I knew that her story was one that I wanted to tell. Was it because she being sent off into an unfamiliar world? After all, when I was writing that short story I was in a boarding school 1000’s of miles away from home. Sure. I’m sure that was part of it. I guess I don’t know a writer that doesn’t use personal experiences in their writing. I feel like that’s probably what makes for great writing. It helps readers connect to the people and the places and the emotions behind the words.
I had always appreciated the characters in my short stories and reports in school. I guess I never knew how much I would truly FEEL for my characters until I started diving into my novel though. Short stories are one thing. They aren’t less important than full length novels. I have read plenty that have broken my heart because they were so in depth and ended way too soon. But for me, for my characters, instead of being with them for 5,000 words, we will be with them (I guess only some of them) for around 75,000 words. And maybe even more if I end up turning this into 3 books. (For now I am just writing, we shall see what it turns into.) But now I’m getting off topic.
Hemingway said, “When writing a novel a writer should create living people not characters. A character is a caricature.” So thinking back to that favorite character of yours, imagine them fresh in your mind. Imagine how you think they would look. Think about how they would smile. Even take a moment to imagine how you think they would smell. (Weird I know) Well imagine now that they died…
Yeah that’s right. They died! Any fans of Game of Thrones knows what’s up, right?
Recently, while combing through some of my chapters I was taking a look at my characters. A few of them have been around long enough so far in these early chapters that I wanted to do a little editing, beef up some of the details. And I came across the part where I had killed off my first character. In re-reading I guess I didn’t really need to kill him off. Anyone in the scene would have done to get my point across. Maybe I did it to test myself, to push myself to the limits of where great writing happens. But the point is, I did it. I killed off one of my characters. I had to sit and imagine the reactions of everyone. I had to detail his wife’s reaction as she discovered what had happened. And it broke my heart.
This is a feeling I will hopefully feel over and over again. Sounds weird right? My point is if I feel heartbreak for his wife, my readers will (hopefully) feel that too. That’s what makes a book great, great writing, and a connection to the author’s words. This is what makes character development so amazing. This is what makes writing so incredible. A chance to create this world filled with these people that will take my readers on a wild ride. And this is also why character development sucks. Because no matter how much I love my characters, not everyone can have a happy ending.
So that’s that I guess. Thanks for reading my ramblings. I’m honestly not even sure I got my point across..but that’s what first drafts are for right?