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Shape a Compelling Story Through Character Development

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

Hello there!

Despite the strange circumstances and my mysterious host, Vox Chronos, I'm happy to be back and sharing my writing expertise with you again!

I can't lie to you, though. Every time I write one of these blog posts, my list of questions regarding Vox Chronos gets longer. Here is a running list of my burning questions:

  • Who is Vox Chronos?

  • Where is he located?

  • What is this "signal" he keeps referring to?

  • How does he have access to my computer?

  • Where did he find my email address?

I recently received back another automated email from Vox Chronos. He's probably on vacation and too busy to respond personally. I hope he's okay, though; he's been gone for a couple of months now.

Sure, I'm frustrated with him. However, I can't help but wonder if he's safe. I probably shouldn't trouble myself with his comings-and-goings too much.

Let's focus on Character Development instead!

Shape a Compelling Story Through Character Development

In a previous article about Writing Believable Characters, we discussed the importance of shaping characters in a fashion where your readers can imagine them being real. This happens to be an important step in character development as well!

Character development, believe it or not, is essential to any compelling page-turner. It is the chemistry that brings any story to life and encourages your raiders to continue to turn the pages. Therefore, taking the time to ensure your characters are developed is important to an interesting story!

You can have the best story outline with a fresh new idea but, without properly developed characters, the tale may feel stale and fall flat for your readers. If the characters do not pop off of the page and your readers can't actually visualize who they are as a person, it is likely your book will be back on the shelf before it's completely read.

So, how do our favorite authors fully develop their characters in a way that keeps us waiting in anticipation and wanting more? I've done the research, so you don't have to! Review these four steps to take when developing your characters for a story your readers won't be able to put down.

Everyone Has Faults

Try not to be tempted to fall into the normal flow of creating perfect main characters. That's a newbie mistake. Keep in mind, not everyone in the real world is good-looking, with chiseled abs, a gleaming white smile, a balanced personality, and the right set of skills to defeat the bad guy all by himself.

Since no one in the world like that exists, none of your characters should emulate a perfect being. Give your main character some flaws, and don't make them tiny insignificant flaws. I'm not talking about creating a character who is perfect and then making them have a sassy attitude or a quirky personality. Make them flawed.

Is your main character a medieval heroine with an attractive physique? Well, since we are in the medieval times when there wasn't toothpaste, and people drank wine like water, she probably shouldn't have flawless Invisalign-straight white teeth. She doesn't have to be ugly, but solid character development does require writers to be realistic.

Don't Forget the Details

Many writers become tangled up and confused when they incorporate too many minor details. Keep in mind that if you are having trouble keeping the details straight, then your readers are probably going to have issues as well.

Clothing details, hair color, eye color, speaking mannerisms, and even personalities can all be difficult to keep organized. While details are important, there is a balance between providing enough interesting information and overdoing it.

When editing, reread through your manuscript and focus on one character at a time with each reread. Focusing on just one character with each editing pass will help you catch any inconsistencies written throughout the story.

Focus on Motivations

Even in real life, people have motivating factors that propel them to do what they do on a daily basis. Money, relationships, justice, social status, and love are just a few of the most common motivators that influence our lives.

Each of your characters should have something that motivates their every move, even if it isn't apparent right away to your readers. However, your readers should eventually be able to figure out each character's motivations. Don't worry; it's not as complicated as it sounds, and it is likely you are already doing this!

Have you ever read a book where one character does a remarkably nice favor for the main character? It may leave you wondering, "What's the catch?" Well, the motivating reason the secondary character did the main character a favor could be either nefarious or innocent; however, there should 100% be some type of motivating factor.

That is, there needs to be a reason that character did a favor for another other than he's just a "nice guy." In real life, even if a friend does a favor for you, there's usually a reason behind it. Whether they want to show you that they care deeply for you or they want to uphold their social status in the friend group, there's always a reason. Whether the motivators are selfless or selfish, each character needs them.

Make Them Stand Out

What makes your main characters, or even your secondary characters, stand apart from each other? This is an important question to ask yourself to develop dimensional characters that drive the plot of your story. What is it that makes them unique in the way they are interesting, funny, terrifying, attractive, etc.?

Even your secondary characters should have backstories and facts about them that make them memorable. Otherwise, your audience will get bored in a world where only the main character is allowed to be uniquely themselves.

In addition, you may want to think about how your characters stand apart from characters of popular books within your genre. For example, if you're writing dystopian fiction, you probably don't want your main character or any side characters to represent Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.

This doesn't mean that Suzanne Collins has a monopoly on headstrong female main characters with fancy side braids. However, if you are a writer who wants to publish a book that will stand apart from other dystopian novels, it may be a good idea for you to consider how to make your characters unrepeated.

Final Thoughts About Character Development

There's no doubt that characters play a defining role in the flow and even success of a story. Taking the time to fully flesh out each character, determine their motivators, and prescribe them reasonable flaws is an essential and ongoing step during the story writing process. After all, the story is about them.

For more helpful information and tips about creating characters your readers will love, or love to hate, check out my former post about Essential Steps Towards Exciting and Effective Character Dialogue! Remember, your story will only be as interesting as your characters are.

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