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Developing Your Characters

June 13, 2017

Last week I mentioned that we would be working on the outline of the story this week. I lied. What I really meant to say was we would be developing our characters. This process can take a bit of time. You might already have an idea of your main characters’ attributes in your head, and you might even know how they interact with some of the other characters. But what do you really know about your characters?

When developing your characters, but sure to dissect them, find out why they are they way they are. What happened in their past that created their current personality traits? What knowledge do they have and where did they get it? What kind of childhood did they have? What drives them? What scares them? What is their flaw? What keeps them from achieving their goal?

Remember the Joseph Campbell’s eight character archetypes? Which one matches your character? After you’ve decided which character archetype you’re working with, determine the character’s personality traits. I use the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator (PMAI). This will help you create a backstory for your characters. Just for fun (and as an example) let’s dissect a well-known protagonist:

He is an orphan, one of the most common PMAI archetypes. He is un-
trusting due to being orphaned at a tender age. He speaks multiple
languages because his family traveled throughout Europe; his father
was a Vickers armaments company representative. He learned navi-
gation and seamanship skills in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
He was raised by his aunt and was expelled from Eton College at the
age of 12 for inappropriate conduct with one of the school’s maids.
He lost his virginity at the age of 16 during his first trip to  Paris. He
seeks safety and is afraid of being abandoned, which keeps him from
creating any real lasting relationships.

Any ideas who this character might be? If you said Bruce Wayne, you have horrible deduction skills! Either that or you really need to brush up on your knowledge of film and literature. Of course this is James Bond. Although these facts are not revealed in the first film (or novel), they do help develop his character. The more you know about your characters the more depth you give them.

You don’t need to breakdown every character this way. You don’t need to know the motivation of the busboy that spills water on the villain. Secondary characters are just that, secondary. But you should breakdown all of your main characters in this fashion. Give them depth. Give them three dimensions. Make them relatable! This process will most likely take more than just one week, especially if writing isn’t your day job. Until next week, keep writing!

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