Character Development: 3 Ways

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite aspects of writing is developing characters. Making them come alive, getting to know them, finding their depth, their motives, and well, making them so real they sometimes take the plot away…  (ok, the control freak writer in me doesn’t always think this so cool…. but I digress…)

I thought I’d share some practices I use to develop characters. Here are three timed exercises you can try too:

1. List out what is in the character’s closet. Take 10 minutes.

(i.e. Is it sparse? Neat? Messy? Colour coordinated? Are the hangers all the same? Are there any hangers, or is it a folded mess? Cheap clothes? Bargain basement hunter? Shoes? Baseball hats? Is there anything hidden in the closet…)

2. In list form, or in sentences, describe something from the character’s childhood (or adolescence/ early twenties, etc). Take 15 minutes.

(i.e. was her childhood unstable, lots of moving, broken home; what happened that altered the character’s life? Was is positive? negative? Did they have a favorite grandparent? Did the grandparent die? Did they have a sibling who died and the character blames himself and has never forgiven himself…)

 3. In list form, describe the character’s appearance. Take 10 minutes.

  (i.e. does she wear glasses; is her hair long/ short/ curly/ frizzy; does she walk a certain way? Is she tall/ short/ average; does she have a distinguishing mark on her face; what are her distinct mannerisms – does she talk with her hands, does she stand with her hands on her hips, does she keep her head down; Is her skin a certain texture – smooth; hard calloused hands…)

How about you?

Hey, we’re living in this social media age, so I invite you to comment, share, and contribute your character development tips too!

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9 comments

  1. I love writing characters. I keep a moleskine notebook for writing down that which forms plots, characters, scenes etc.. I also use a custom piece of software with a character sheet (ala role playing games) Then I get carried away and write flash fiction, short stories and carry on dialogues in my head. It all works because in the end I come away with characters that I know so very well. I find the structure of the character sheet good for the day to day details. The writing and journal flesh out the skeleton and deliver (usually) the almost final version of the character.

  2. Very cool! Great to have a bunch of characters in your back pocket (or moleskin!). 😉

  3. Nice post, Krista! Enjoyed it and thanks for sharing. I’ll tweet it!

    1. Thanks ladaray! 🙂

  4. Cast of Characters are what we make them, Everyone has a special way to make each come alive is so many ways each and every one to its own ways, action and expression. Having a sheet in front of you can sometime help with these characters likes and dislikes, hair color and something special they do’ how they act at home or with friends. That’s what i look at every time thinking and writing along. just a quick glance up and seeing the name one can feel what the character is all about as you type onward thinking just like that person would do. This is good we all need a little help now and then Thank’s for the input Will.

  5. Thank you too Will! It is nice to know there is a thriving community of writers out there!

  6. I wish I could explain how I develop my characters. They just appear in my head like characters in a TV show and I take down notes, how they look like etc. I’m often surprised by what I see and what I hear coming out from their lips. I often let the tv show play in my head for a while, then I’ll get a nice grasp of the character. But I like the ‘list the things in the closet’ idea. I’ve never thought of that before!

  7. Very cool Elizabeth! You sound like a natural writer!

  8. […] Character Development: 3 Ways (flashbites.wordpress.com) […]

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