WRITING KNOWHOW Starting character development


You've got a great story idea. You've sketched out your plot and want to get started. But where to start with characters? KnowHow Editor Eleanor Pender takes a closer look at character development. 

You're pulling together the first strands of your plot and can see your story forming in front of you. Where to go next? It can be all-consuming, the need to dive right into the first chapter and get started right away. I have certainly done this.

But, hold on a moment and spend some time with your characters before everything starts. 

You may see them in your mind's eye and have an idea of how they will react and what they will do in the plot but taking a moment here, at the beginning, will make things a lot easier later on. 

You are the creator 

Many authors say that characters create themselves, arriving fully formed and ready to be added to a story. Even if this is you, taking a moment before diving into the first draft can really help interrogate who the character is. Remember, you are literally creating this character. They exist in your head. You give them a name, age, role and love interest. You need to know them, as people would a friend or family member.

This is their story

Every character, from the protagonist’s best friend to the villain, is the hero of their own story. The more time you spend with each of them in the beginning, getting to know them, the more you will develop engaging characters that will enchant readers. 

Look at your cast of characters. How many are there? When does the reader meet each one? When are they introduced in dialogue? Whether you've planned out your chapters or you write as you go, be sure to note when the reader meets each one, and how much they know about them before they first appear.

Character is one of the most important parts of a story. Who are your characters? What are they? How will they impact and affect the reader? 

Your characters are a driving force, keeping the reader wanting to know what will happen next. Taking time to really know them will almost certainly be worth it. 

Main Image by Mingyang Li

Do you have any suggestions for KnowHow? If there's something you'd like to know how to do or know more about, tell us. Email KnowHow editor, Eleanor at knowhow@britishscbwi.org

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