Thursday, August 17, 2017

Give Your Characters Room to Grow

Give your characters room to grow and you will bring them to life; don’t, and they might as well be made out of cardboard.

As a pantser, I don’t do a lot of in-depth outlining of my characters before I start. I prefer to discover what they are like as I write. I let them reveal themselves to me, although I frequently have to pause and discover the backstory that has caused them to behave or react the way that they do.

The story “The Queen’s Pawn” is a good example of this. When we first meet the queen, she comes across as a bit simple-minded. As the tale progresses, we find out who is really in charge. Her daughter is a loud-mouthed shrew. I had to discover why before I could finish the story. They both show sides not obvious when we first meet them. The harried hero of the tale, the young man, also undergoes personal changes over the course of the three volumes. (Admittedly, seemingly slowly at times.).

Even the villains have to have a reason for why they act the way they do. A good villain should believe that he or she is in the right. Very few memorable villains think they are simply evil. They may be seeking justice for a real or imaginary wrong. Remember, the ordinary folks outnumber the psychopaths. (I hope).

I often let the character’s motives become obvious slowly rather than dump them all on the reader in the first chapter. People can also change. Motives may not be obvious. That is part of the fun of writing. I want to get to know the characters better. They can even change the direction of a story once you get to know them better.

In working on a recent manuscript I had reason to pause and consider that some of my characters were too similar. Without using their names you couldn’t tell them apart. That gave me a reason to dig deeper and discover what those differences were. In the process, I learned more about them, and what made them tick.

Take a look at your characters. Are they well-rounded or flat? The best written have emotions the readers should be able to relate to. Do they have good reasons for what they do? You at least should know those motives even if you only hint at them in your novel. Give them room to breathe and they will come to life. That alone will make for a much better story.


The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas

Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)