As writers, we have the job of creating, developing, and exploring the characters in our stories. By stories, I am referring to fiction pieces where characters are made up. While writing a short fiction piece recently I was stuck in a rut of how to further develop my character in the setting and conflict I had carefully placed her. What direction would she take, what qualities would she display, and furthermore, how was her story going to end?
A few weeks after struggling through the 10-page fiction story, which is no comparison to the novels that most authors write, I came across the article Creative Writing: When Characters are Difficult to Get On With by Charlotte Seager.
The problem isn’t with the characters though, it is with the writer, according to Seager. Those problems are greatest when the writer is removed from the situation the character is in or facing. If the character being created or developed is a child, the writer will struggle with it if they are not around or observing children. Stephen King noted that when he was writing about blue-collar workers he was “one step away from manual labor”. Being closely related or having experience in a job or profession enabled him to successfully craft his characters. Having been out of the profession for so long at this point, he stated that “It is definitely harder”.
However, difficult characters don’t always have to be a bad thing. Another author, Neel Mukherjee commented on these challenges stating that “a troublesome character is far from an unwelcome guest”. These characters force the author to be creative, explore traits and behaviors that they might not have otherwise considered. The result of this creativity may lead to a better story line, as well as a deeper and more relatable character altogether. So while the frustration and aggravation that writers endure when faced with a difficult character is not ideal, it may ultimately be beneficial in the long run.
Tips for character development? I thought you’d never ask! Think about the people you already know; how do they act? What difficulties have they faced? What makes them unique? What is the purpose of your character in the story? Those are great places to start and then move on to research and observation. However, if that doesn’t help, perhaps this article from Writer’s Digest will: The 9 Ingredients of Character Development
Which direction will your character take?