Recently I have been reading KM Weiland’s book ‘Crafting Unforgettable Characters’. I have to say, I have really enjoyed it. Weiland puts quite a different spin on character development. This post also has a lot of my own advice in it as well, but seriously recommend that you read KM Weiland’s book. You can find her blog link on my blogroll to the right hand side of this page. This post is mainly a quick snapshot of parts of the book, and there are many details that I have left out – on purpose!
In the book there are a number of exercises that enables you to think from different positive angles. For example: writing a log-line for each of your characters; writing descriptions of how the character looks in different emotions; looking at your character through another character’s eyes.
These are all excellent exercises to help you really draw out your characters. It not only sharpens them, but you get to see your characters through different sets of eyes. It’s about thinking outside of the box. She talks about defining what your characters do that defines them. Characters are not all the incredibly fearless hero that leaps into unbelievable situations and come out living, breathing, and smiling. If they did, they wouldn’t be realistic, and if they were realistic, they probably wouldn’t be alive.
I often hear writers say something along this lines of, “I think I have to kill my character, who I really like.” You are probably thinking, ‘Why? You are the writer. You have the choice to either let them live, or let them die.’
Well, because their characters have worked their way into some sort of dire situation, and there is no longer any way out of a situation. There has to be both penance and balance in order to make this work. If the author wants to keep them alive, there must be penance. If they kill them, there (in theory) should be a balancing from the opposing character (e.g. the baddie/or goodie). Characters are defined by their actions.
The importance of names plays a big part in this book. Personally, I have always put quite a bit of research into finding names that gives the right level of bearing to my characters. Weiland suggests using The Greatest Baby Name Book Ever by Carol McD. Wallace. There is also an Alchemist Name Generator link highlighted in there that will spit out forty first names and surnames: http://www.inkalicious.com/alchemist.html My personal advice though, is that if you are going to use a random name generator – whatever name you choose – do your research on it. By doing research, you will be able to define whether or not the name is appropriate for your character, and it can also give your character further depth.
The same sort of careful selection that you use with names, you should also use choosing with your character’s career. This comes
back down to being ‘defined by their actions’. People in general, are defined by what they do, as in career wise. You need to do your research here as well. Online, you can look at possible career options by plugging in your interests. Do this for your characters as well. There are heaps of these sites online. I suggest using one from the region that your character lives in order to get the detail accurate, and by doing this research – it will add even further depth to your character’s personality.
There is so much more that I could talk about with this book, but I think that I would probably spoil it for everyone else who wants to read and learn from it. But apply the exercises that she has developed, embrace the knowledge, and give new life to your characters. All the best, and happy writing!