Iterative Character Development

You’re writing a story. Will it be a novel, a novella or a short story? You don’t know yet. But one thing is for sure: you need characters. One or more protagonists, at least one antagonist, maybe some supporting characters. Who are they? How do they behave? What is their role in the story?

There are a lot of techniques for doing character design. I’ve heard about creating a shopping list for that character. Even just Googling for images on the internet is a way I’ve found people doing it. Here’s how I’m doing it right now for my current project.

Character Cards

Scrivener has this feature where you can create a document for every character. It comes with a template you can fill in. I like that. I call these character cards.

I filled them up. I didn’t even have names yet – more on that later. But I knew the goal of the characters. I knew their roles in the story. I used the Google tactic to look at some physical descriptions.

Conflict is Key

The most important part of the template, for me, are the parts about conflict. Does the character have internal conflicts in the story? Is the character “pure” or is there more to it? I believe this makes your characters human. Because humans have internal conflicts.

What are the external conflicts? With who does the character fight? Who does he argue with? Or have a grudge against? These kind of things are important because they make up the story. Two friends rarely make a plot, but two guys wanting the same price or having an argument. Now that’s interesting.

Keep On Building

I have some character cards that are not completely filled in. Details like background, habits and even occupation can be filled in later. But that’s not everything. Something is filled in on my computer. It is not written in stone.

I’d like to think that I’m iteratively developing my characters. During writing, some details might change. So I adjust my character card. Or I think that something just isn’t right. I might even fill in those details that I haven’t yet when I find out they are important to the story.

There’s a lot more to say about character development. Blogposts about other aspects will surely follow. One thing is certain, conflict is key.

That’s all for today. Have fun writing!