That Stephen King quote hangs in my old writing cabinet. The cabinet that used to house my computer before we turned the extra bedroom into my studio. It is one of my favorite quotes. I think about it when I begin a new book and often when I begin a new chapter. An opening line can hook a reader, but great characters keep them coming back.
But just how do you create unforgettable characters?
I don’t want to pretend to know everything on this subject. There are far greater writers with far superior characters to my own. Many people know that “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Most know who Scout and Atticus are and “every child in our world will know his name.” And his name is Harry Potter. How do great writers produce great characters? Well, it doesn’t happen overnight. Or at least not completely. I believe it takes time, thought, and planning. Just a simple search on the internet for ‘creating characters’ will give you a plethora of answers. Anyone who has tried their hand at writing has faced the fact they created a flat character. Perhaps it’s an obstacle that prevented you from going further. It doesn’t have to be.
Learn what made your flat characters two-dimensional and use that knowledge to create three-dimensional characters next time.
Another quote that hangs in my cabinet and I think on often. I have always been intrigued by the idea of writing a story that mimics real life. In real life, we don’t have happy endings with neat bows. It is a continual journey with valleys and mountaintops. When I decided I wanted to write a story that was “real-life”, with all the pain and hurt a real-life story has, it fueled what type of characters I would have.
They would need rich backstories, real fears, high hopes, and things to live for. They were characters that would need to stand the test of a series and have you questioning where they came from. I tried my hardest to create real-life people. I’m going to take the next several weeks to share the ways I create characters and how they help me. I hope this short series on character development will help you with your own journey of creating characters.