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Creating Characters You Can Touch

18 Mar 2018

I recently added a cool little widget to my site to give me a little insight as to what level of writer reads my blog so I can tailor my writing advice more in keeping with their needs. Of course, a website survey was bound to bring mixed results. As I stared at all the coloured segments and pondered what articles I can create that address these writing conundrums and try to clear what are often distinctly muddy waters, I realised character development can't come without plot. That is to say, the story arc is fundamental in the development of fictional characters. And because my most recent online class Creating Emotional Identities covers the first stage of this development, I thought it a good idea to make character development the focus of this month’s main article.


To give you a cut down version: Your character's emotional identity is the foundation of your plot. Once you have established who they are at the beginning, you can start to see a roadmap to who they will be by the end. Their development relies on the emotional markers in between.


Character development very much depends on how the author takes the story through those stages of change, and how they use fear and ambition to push the protagonist onward. Without these two vital insights – the emotional trajectory and how fear and ambition force the character through it – it's hard to work out how to move forward in a convincing way.


But in order to move your characters through that trajectory, there needs to be a firm basis in familiarity. If you haven't explored who your characters are, how do you know what decisions they will make? How will you know what markers to use? How a character is emotionally structured will affect their decision-making process and those decisions will create more plot.


Now, most of what I’ve just outlined is big-picture development, but what about at chapter or even sentence levels?


Here are some approaches I use in my own character designs some