Character Development Struggles
When I first started writing, I struggled with character development. I completed my very first manuscript, an adult suspense book, about ten years ago. I sent out countless queries begging agents to represent me, and I received numerous rejections letters in return. One agent took the time to respond with constructive criticism; my storyline was interesting, but they couldn’t connect with the characters. Ooof, that one stung a bit. Thus began my decade-long struggle to create characters worthy enough to be featured in my stories.
Since that first attempt at publishing crashed and burned, life took over and moved me in a different direction. I shelved my writing while I took on the challenge of motherhood, four times over. I wrote on and off during my children’s infant stage, but it wasn’t until my youngest child started school, I could focus on writing again.
Modeling After Real People
In another blog, which you can read here, I explain how I came up with the Mystery of the Cursed Elves idea. The book is centered on four siblings’ adventures; those children are loosely based on my own kids. This time around, I really wanted to nail the characters in the hopes of creating a really great series. I figured if I used real people as my models, it would be hard to fail.
As I sat down to write the story, I picked out each child’s most prominent personality traits and then embellished them a bit.
To my great wonderment and surprise, writing these characters came easy. In all honestly, I didn’t even think about the four children; they simply came into being and worked with me to tell the story. In fact, it wasn’t until a few Beta Readers mentioned how fun and relatable the characters were that I really understood what I had done. I managed to develop great characters because I knew their personalities like the back of my hand. Years of motherhood gave me the insight I needed, and all I did was write the story as if my own children were in it.
If I ever struggled with “What would Max do?” or “How would Sophie react to that?” I thought about the child they were modeled after and found my answers. It was a no brainer and, in hindsight, quite impressive. I discovered something here as if a light bulb switched on in my creative mind.
My Favorite Character to Write
I get the most compliments on Parker. My Beta readers love Parker; her personality shines through most effectively. Author confession, she is my favorite character to write for. Parker is based on my youngest child, Roxi, my spunky, wild child. And although Parker is an exaggerated version of Roxi, their personalities are similar.
Roxi is younger than Parker in real life; she was only 4 when my first book was published. In the books, Parker is six. Since the children go on many wacky adventures, they all needed to be slightly older for the stories to make sense. Some of the things Parker does would be far-fetched if she were only four. That being said, both Roxi and Parker share an adventurous and bold disposition. Although Roxi isn’t quite as fearless as Parker, she shares the same spunk and spirit. Parker is the embodiment of what I think Roxi will be as she gets older.
I love writing her parts because of her fearlessness; she is the polar opposite of myself. While I tend to think before acting, I love that Parker acts without thinking. Its so different from my own experiences, but almost freeing in a way. Its honestly the way I wish I could be sometimes, running at things head first, completely spontaneous, without a single thought to the consequences. Parker can do all this because she knows her siblings will be there if she does end up in over her head.
The Other Kids
Sophie, the oldest sister in the series, is based on my oldest daughter, Mila. Mila has always been a “little mother” to her siblings. She is kind, caring, helpful, and always nurturing, just like Sophie in the books. In our family, Mila is the natural leader, but I gave that role to Max in the series; I wanted him to be important in driving the plot forward.
Max is modeled after my only boy, Maddex. Like Max, my son also loves adventure and problem-solving. He isn’t quite as bold or outgoing as Max, but he can be very persistent and determined when he gets an idea in his head. Much like Max, he gets along well with his sisters, and they spend quite a bit of time together.
Violet is a mixture of my middle child and myself as a child. Khaleesi is quiet but has an active imagination. Her personality is more passive, often allowing her ideas to be easily overshadowed and dismissed by her bolder, louder sisters. Like myself, her imagination is vivid and overactive; in fact, when I find myself struggling with the plot, she is my go-to gal, often helping to spark my creative juices and get me back on track.
Lessons Learned – Developing Characters
I have learned so much from writing this first book. I now know I am capable of creating characters my readers not only relate to but will cheer for. While building characters is not my strongest trait, I can put into practice what I learned from this series in future writings.
- Basing characters on real people works well for me. It takes the guesswork out of creating a personality from scratch; I already know the traits.
- A character needs to feel like a real person. Everybody has their own specific traits and personality, so work to make that shine in everything they do.
- Bring the personality to life. I don’t want to tell my readers what a character is like, I want to show them. Use dialogue and action to really accentuate and amplify those traits; bring the character to life.
I’m looking forward to putting all I have learned into practice and meeting all the new characters lurking around in my head.
Keywords: developing characters, fiction characters, book characters, character building