Strong Character Development


ImageOnce you finish your manuscript, it’s imperative that you revise and polish it to make it the best possible. Here’s a checklist of points to review in regards to the characters of your story.

Main characters

  • Are the natures and personalities of the main characters defined?
  • Are the motivating traits of the main characters clear and believable?
  • Are the main characters’ situation and objectives established?
  • Are the protagonists clearly the major actors in the plot? Do they affect each event in some way?
  • Does every event also affect the protagonist? Can you chart the cause-and-effect relationship between event
  • Do your protagonists act heroically at some point (especially in the end)? Do they overcome inner problems in order to resolve the romantic and external conflicts?
  • Are your protagonists challenged by the plot? If they easily handle every obstacle, you’ve got a cartoon superhero, not a hero and heroine.
  • Do your protagonists each have an internal journey to complete?  Make sure in the end they’re different than they are in the beginning, and different in the ways you have identified as essential to growth.
  • Do the main characters start out with goals? It’s easier to entice them into meaningful action if they want something.
  • Does the protagonist have both an internal and an external motivation for the goal. The character doesn’t have to know the internal motivation early on… but you should.
  • If the protagonist later drops this important goal, do you provide sufficient motivation, such as a competing goal or a conflict of values?
  • Does every action and reaction result somehow from the character’s internal or external needs or desires?
  • Use a Character Questionaire to get to know them.

Secondary characters

  • Do the secondary characters contribute to the main characters’ story without taking over?
  • Have you kept secondary-character influence and accidental solutions to a minimum?  The wise old man who explains all to the young hero is taking center stage. Consider making the young hero at least demand the tutelage.
  • Can you identify the motivation of other characters too? It’s not enough that you need the villain to start stalking the heroine. The villain has to have reason for it too.

More character posts: Filling out your characters

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