Novelling: Troublesome Characters


It’s been another slow week. Sloooowww. I didn’t even manage to get a word on the page, not even planning. However I did give a short talk at a local game event about character. Which I will now explain as best my memory will allow.

I don’t think I really understood character or their importance until I started writing this novel. It all started with a game I was building, which became the inspiration for the novel itself. I worked on the game for 4 months, I built the game with the help of a coder and several artists. At the end of the 4 months we had a working demo but struggled to push further. The team moved on to different projects and the game stagnated. I neglected it as best I could but the idea persisted in my mind. The story begging to be told.

One day several months after work had stopped on the game I started writing. In a few days I had the first 2 chapters of my novel complete. It was easy, it flowed through me, I didn’t have to think to write it. I kept working, slowly building the word count. Until the same thing happened the story stagnated. I left it for a couple months. Frustration haunting me.

I didn’t want to give up, I had a solid start and the story still wanted to be told but I realized where my problem was coming from. A lack of interesting characters. My characters were flat, they had little if any personality. This for me is the crux of bad games, films, stories of all kinds.

Characters are the single most important element to any story. Without good characters the audience, player, reader has no one to connect with. That connection is how they feel, it’s the reason why we remember or feel emotion. Any good movie, tv show, game, book understands this. Game of Thrones, The Last of Us, Gladiator, Harry Potter. The characters let us feel what they feel or feel something towards them.

So developing good characters then arguably is the most important part of the story you are telling. Once I realized this I got to work. I struggled at first. How do you develop good, interesting characters? One might ask.

I’ll tell you. I started with what I have come to understand as the lady method. Give them flaws and try to fit them into the story, this didn’t work. Characters get depth when you give it to them. They need a backstory and you need to really understand them in order to portray the depth they have. So first, start with questions to get to know your character. Simple questions, when where they born? Where did they grow up? Who’s there best friend? Did they like school? What’s their favourite colour? Just keep trying to answer these kinds of questions, the more you answer the better you will understand your character. 

Once I’ve asked and answered a ton of questions, I write a simple bullet list, with the character name and three headings. Appearance, personailty, history. (I got this concept from Shealinwrites a writer I follow on YouTube, she’s a fantastic resource). This group of headings really helps to amalgamate all the answers and get a good picture of the character as a person that you can draw on quickly while writing.

But this is just my process and if it can help than fantastic! 

Let me know if you do it differently or have a similar process, I’m curious!

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2 thoughts on “Novelling: Troublesome Characters

  1. I have a profile for each significant character in my novels. I’ve developed the profile over the years and not all of the information in it will go into the books but it is useful to know and understand their back stories.
    As some of my novels are part of a series they are very handy for continuity as well. These are the main headings I use but I’m adapting it all the time.
    Role in Story:
    Occupation:
    Age:
    Physical Description:
    Personality:
    Habits/Mannerisms:
    Background:
    Internal Conflicts:
    External Conflicts:
    Motivation:
    Goal:
    Epiphany:
    Summary:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! That actually makes a lot of sense especially if you need them for more than one book. It seems the more time you spend with characters the more you add. I especially like the habits/mannerism section I might have to start including that in mine!

      Liked by 1 person

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