By: Janice Hardy
Characters play just as many roles in the writing process as they do in the novel itself. Some characters spark the very idea of the story, others show up when needed to suit plot, and others are doomed to life as nothing more than spear carriers. Most of the time, by the end of a first draft you’ll have too many, and some (if not all) will be flat as cardboard. Now’s the time to start bringing them to life.
Get Real, People
Characters will pop in and out as you write, even if you aren't sure what to do with them or how they fit. After you've figured out whichto keep and which to cut, you'll likely want to develop them more and make them as rich and three dimensional as your main character. Or, you might be the type who prefers to flesh out everyone after the first draft is done and you see how the story unfolds.
Look at what role each character plays in the story. Not their "the protagonist's best friend" type role, but a thematic role. For example, in my fantasy novel, The Shifter, Aylin is the voice of reason. She's the practical one when Nya gears up to dive headfirst and full speed into something she believes in (she's a bit of an idealist). Knowing this, as I edited the draft I kept Aylin's role in mind. Her style and behavior reflected her personality and role, both as the best friend, and as the voice of reason. Her actions also reinforced this.
Motivation is a big key to creating three-dimensional characters.
Anybody can act out what the plot tells them to, but to feel real, they need to have believable motivations for these actions. And then they need to act in ways that are true to their background and who they are. Especially if the plot requires them to go against those beliefs, which you'll likely do to them at some point, because that's just good writing.
While very little of Aylin's history is in the actual book, what is there shows how she became the person she is and gives her the motivation to be the character I need her to be. I know her story even if it never makes it to the pages.
As you're going through each of your characters, ask yourself (and them) a few questions:
What role do they play?
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