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Writing A Novel - For The Beginner - Character Development
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In the Story Concept section of our discussion on how to write a novel, we developed a basic one-sentence statement for our novel concept. Something similar to:
When a middle-aged ad man who's been coasting on his early success for years suddenly finds himself competing with a new, up-and-comer, he wages a life-or-death game of wits with his competition.
At this point, the idea will still be a little sketchy in your mind. Don't let that worry you. Go a head and explore it from every angle until you feel comfortable with the basic premise.
Now, we're going to focus on character.
Every good story hinges on character. Change the character and you change the story. For instance, if you take the concept stated above and change the character to a hard-working single mother with no formal education, you have a completely different story. See how this changes the way you interpret the story:
When a hard-working single mother with no formal education suddenly finds herself competing for her job with a new, up-and-comer, she wages a life-or-death game of wits with her competition.
So this is the next step, a very important step, of your novel development: defining your main character.
Who is this person your story is about?
How old is he? How does he see the world? Is he a positive person or does he always lament about how the world is working against him? What kind of childhood did he have? What kind of a family? And how does his past impact who he is today? What does he look like? What are his physical strengths and weaknesses? What are his emotional strengths and weaknesses? What are his psychological strengths and weaknesses?
What's his greatest fear? What's his greatest passion?
What does he want more than anything else in the world?
What's his education? What does he do for a living? Is he happy with it or hate it? Is he married? Does he have children? Has he been divorced?
Not every question listed above is going to be important to defining your particular character. However, you do want to ask plenty of questions. You want to come away with a clear picture of who your main character is, what's important to him, and how your story will grow around him.
Some authors like to use a form to help them discover their characters. Age. Gender. Education. Height. Weight. Eye color. Hair color. Weakness. Strength. Etc. You might also find it helpful to go through some magazines until you find a picture of someone who strikes you as what your character looks like.
Every author is different in approaching character development. Use whatever works for you. The important point is that at the end of the process, you should have a clear idea of who your main character is and the driving force that will carry him through your story.
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