I’ve been asked by several of you to dig a little deeper into the development of a character, so here’s a little more insight.
Character development can be a touchy, complicated, and sometimes eluding part of the writing process. After all, you are creating a living, breathing human being/creature/alien. Just because they live within the covers of a book shouldn’t make them any less real, in fact, just the opposite.
Remember the saying, Less Is More? FORGET IT!
In character development you can’t have too much depth. Every little detail about your character is critical in making him believable. I’ve seen plenty with not enough depth, but never have I found one with too much. I love to read a book where I fall for the characters right away. Good or bad, I have to feel something for them, and the more I feel, the better and smoother the story is for me.
Details! Don’t ignore them.
I’ve recently found myself hooked on a television show called Once Upon A Time on ABC. Though I don’t write fantasy, this show is fantastic in building character depth. Each character has to show at least four different sides to themselves. They push the limits of their acting abilities. My favorite villain is Mr. Gold (in our current day period) who also plays Rumplestiltskin in the fantasy world. If you haven’t seen an episode of this show, I wholeheartedly urge you to do so. If not for the storyline (which I do love) then for the characters. You can learn so much from them.Let’s take one in particular. How about the villain? We can start by profiling him. I happen to like Roger Depue’s book Between Good and EvilOkay, so now you have to ask yourself some very important questions, such as:
* Male or female?
* Occupation & type of employment
* Educational level
* Social Support System
* Does he act impulsively or is he more of an organized predator?
* Criminally sophisticated, intelligent, or may is addicted to sexual fantasies?
In writing a villain or criminal, it is very important for you to at least understand the makings of a criminal in order to be able to develop a believable and engaging villain. There’s another good book with a chapter or two on this subject by Rachel Ballon, Ph.D called Breathing Life Into Your Characters. It can be a bit redundant at times, but all in all, a good and helpful read. In it, she explains the difference between sociopaths and psychopaths – something you should know. For instance, a sociopath is a person who lacks conscience and cares only for herself at the expense of others. The sociopath usually isn’t a killer, much as the psychopath is.
So how do you find reasons for your villain’s behavior? You must search their past to know their present. Here’s where you go back on to the beginning of their being – where you first breathe life into them. I created this Character Development Worksheet and lean heavily on it when I’m developing my characters. Become so familiar with them, their childhood, parents, siblings, traumas, delights – anything that made that person who they are today – that you know them better than their own parents would.
Once you truly know this person, you can then build a character around him. If you do this well, you will have way more information on the character than you will ever put in your book, and that’s perfect. This is what will help you accentuate the parts that are important to your story.
Remember, not all villains are born that way. People are capable of becoming villains under the right circumstances. Build circumstance into your villain’s life. Perhaps she starts out a loving, caring wife and mother, but then her husband cheats on her with her best friend and they run away with her only child promising her that she will never see the child or him again. Many a person – man or woman – has lost their head over a broken heart. There are other crises such as death, divorce, financial ruin, or undue stress. The more an individual feels out of control, the more desperate they become. Desperation can also create a villain.
This is a subject I’ve had some fun with and am still having fun with. I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this a bit later, but for now this is some good info for you to chew on.
I’ve been told by many of my readers that they absolutely love to hate my villain Obasanji in my novel The Consequential Element. Here’s a character that was made into a villain by the circumstances of his life. His village in the Congo was raided when he was a boy, his father killed, forced to kill his own mother, and then forced to become a rebel soldier at the age of 12. His heart turned black and raping and killing became second nature to him. Until he met Danielle Montgomery. He becomes torn and the reader becomes torn with him. Remember, sometimes the difference between a villain and a hero can be a very fine line.
Here’s a great resource for you. It is called Characters, Emotion, & Viewpoint and the eBook is FREE (at the time of this post.
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I wish you all the best with your scriblings.