Character Development, Why It’s Important & My Tips On Perfecting It

I think it’s safe to say that characters are my favorite part of stories.

 

Whether I’m writing or reading them. The quiet ones and the loud ones, the humble and the proud, the dignified and the goofy, the clumsy and the agile. All of them just pull me in. I like knowing what makes characters tick. What drives them. What their little quirks are, how they interact with others and how they respond to certain situations.

 

People are interesting that way and, to some extent, it’s their personalities that drive the story. Any story that you read, if the main character had been different or acted differently than was his nature, the story probably wouldn’t have happened.

 

It’s very important for any writer to make their characters realistic and consistent in their personalities. If the behavior of your character isn’t consistent, it takes away from the draw of your story.

 

Say your character makes a decision that was not very smart. He jumped in too fast without a plan and now the story is hung up with some big problem.

 

If this character had been a quiet, cautious scientist that always has a plan and would have preferred staying in his lab and experimenting to being part of this adventure, the reader would feel cheated.

 

They’d roll their eyes and say “I wouldn’t have done that. Why on earth did he?”

And the last thing you want people to think your characters are is stupid.

 

Buuut . . . there is still a way to do that sort of move, and still keep your readers’ attention.

 

Say your character is an explorer. He loves adventure and anything that gets his blood pumping. He tends to get overexcited about things and often got in trouble as a kid for doing things without asking or thinking about the consequences. He still has trouble with that and hates plans of any kind. No one tells him what to do.

 

Now, take this guy and make him do the same thing that scientist just did.

 

Not so confusing anymore, huh?

 

This is a lot more believable because it’s in his character to do something like that. The readers are a lot more likely to just shake their heads, smile and say “Yep, that’s Explorer Dude for you. Of course he did that.”

 

Another fun and interesting thing you can do with characters and using their qualities correctly is humor writing. Yes, bouncing characters off each other, even in just a simple conversation can be hilarious.

 

Just think about your family having a conversation together. You’re all different people, all with different opinions and different habits. Sometimes it’s just funny when your sibling does something that’s just so . . . so . . . THEM that it’s hard not to laugh.

 

That, I think is one of the best possible kinds of humor to put in your book.

 

And the key to that is good characterization.

 

Anyway, here are some ways I like to use to develop my characters.

 

  1. Just write down things they like and don’t like. This is an awesome way to bring out those funny little quirks and give your characters habits that they carry through their story. I have lists for all my characters on this and let’s just say they get pretty funny.
  2. Find a bunch of different character development sheets to fill out. And fill out them all. This is a little hard, but very productive.
  3. Throughout your day, in different situations, just think about what your character would do or say.

 

And, a newer method,

 

  1. Pretend you are your character and take the MBTI test.

 

This is actually really fun. You can take it for multiple characters and contrast the types, which is funny. And it gives you a good, long look inside your characters’ heads.

 

All the types are exhaustively researched, their strengths and weaknesses written down and how they interact with other people, which is very helpful. It gives you some ground to stand on as far as what your character would do in real life.

 

Here are a few of my character types from 16personalities.com

 

Jean McStone (Odd Team Out): ISTJ. “Practical and fact minded individuals whose reliability cannot be doubted.”

 

Cobalt Winter (Odd Team Out): ESFP. “Spontainious, energetic and enthusiastic entertainers-life is never boring around them.”

 

Dr. Übel (Odd Team Out): ENTP. “Smart and curious thinkers who cannot resist an intellectual challenge.”

 

Robin Rafferty (Amazing Honesty): ENFP. “Enthusiastic, creative and sociable free spirits, who can always find a reason to smile.”

 

Rob McKinley (The Day Santa Wore Carhartts): ISTP. “Bold and practical experimenters, masters of all kinds of tools.”

 

Those are the ones I’ve done so far.

 

Seriously, it’s fun. I mean, Robin and Jean are opposites? I could totally see that. XD

 

Anyway, have fun with your characters and please talk to me in the comments!

I’d love to hear what you think and what are some ways you use to develop characters!

Oh, and tell me how the MBTI thing turns out. 😉

~writefury

 

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13 responses to “Character Development, Why It’s Important & My Tips On Perfecting It

  1. I was talking to Proverbs31teen, and apparently, she and I share a personality type with Agent Coulson!!! EEEEPPPPPPP!!!
    I’ll have to do this for a couple of my characters. X-D I love the sort of characterization that lets me know that Connor could probably beat Winter, in a certain situation, but in another, Winter would be the winner…

  2. I think Oliver is ESFP as well… Which is odd because he normally lets INFJ Eight–who is more intraversion-oriented–do all the socializing. Intraverts can be social butterflies too–they just need time to recharge afterwards. Also, Eight tends to be friendly with everyone but he tends to get clingy with close friend(s) when he’s tired and then want to avoid everyone except for that/those person/persons. I think Oliver is more reserved, but he gets a lot of enjoyment from seeing the Doctor interact with people. it’s kind of interesting–Oliver is the sort of person who’d bring up coffee for everyone in the office, while the Doctor would only think of that if he was trying to express his compassion for someone but didn’t know what to say. On the other hand, when the Doctor cooks, he always makes enough for two and sets aside a plate for Oliver. He’s thoughtful and kind in a very thoughtless way–he doesn’t get that some of these small acts of kindness might carry other connotations. He’s sort of detached from cultural reference–often even his own. And the sad part is that he doesn’t even realize that he’s being kind.
    In one novel I read, the Doctor asks a UNIT general (!!!) why people behave around him the way they do, and she tells him that the way he looks and acts gives him a sort of power over people, and he’s genuinely alarmed to find that out. He’s really innocent and just doesn’t get that some gestures are, in human culture, typically reserved for the people closest to you. It’s sort of precious.

    • Ah, good. I sort of have an ESxP mode I can switch on and off, so playing Oliver will be fairly easy. I already knew that. But knowing an MBTI type gives a bit more of a guideline as to where to go with him. 😛
      Cute. XD Almost sounds like me and my INFJ friend (WHO JUST CAME BACK FROM MEXICO SO I’M GOING TO SEE MI5 WITH HER sorry. I’m excited.)

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