Writing Wednesday (11) - On Character Development, 3D characters and How to Obtain Both

Disclaimer: I'm not an author nor am I an editor or any kind of expert. I only can share my aspiring adventures with you, but I do hope, it'll help many other aspiring writers and we can go along the road together. :)

When I review a book, I take notes during reading of my feelings, impressions, likes and dislikes and so on and after finishing it, too, to be able to reflect on the book as a whole and sum up everything above. Also, looking back in the end gives me a perspective on the pacing of the story and the character development. 

I don't know about you, but for me it's a huge plus if looking back, I clearly see the way the main character came from the beginning to the end. That she/he had gained from the often atrocious events they lived through. Because then I can tell that it was worth it and that alleviates my feels and what's more important, it makes the story working. Which is, of course, visible in the reviews.

So how to achieve this "plus"? How to help our characters thrive no the story and evolve? Let's see a few tips & trick you may use.

First off, we can't just bang that character growth into the story. If we do so, it will float in the air, making the characters two dimensional and the story unrealistic. We need to input something drastic that ignites the change. Here are some examples:

  • traumas (e.g. accidents, loved ones demise, attacks, etc.)
  • guilt
  • doubt
  • external force (e.g. psychotic treatment, a different person's view, etc.)

If the growth is triggered by a trauma, it will be a sudden, quick change in most of the cases. While if it's incited by guilt or doubt, it will be a slow, contemplative change, which can be more subtle than those cause by trauma. As for growth caused by external force, the character might not even want the change and will fight against it only to accept and work toward it in the end. It's also a slow, difficult path of character growth.

Now, we are being very optimistic with the all going upwards attitude. In real life, unfortunately we don't always get a happy ending. Major cliché, I know, and cheesy on the top, but true. Again, unfortuantely. At any rate, despite many YA readers dislike, you might happen to want to write a novel with a falling character arc and you have every right to do so. But, you'll have to set it up properly. An all smile and puppies type of person won't go down the dark path over stolen car caused remorse ever. But she probably will if she gets attacked and raped and her whole life falls apart. Okay, yes, I am exaggerating, but you get the point; be reasonable. Always. And think with your character's head.

The easiest way to test if your character has grown is to ask "Would XY have done the same thing at the beginning of the book as now?" If the answer is yes, you can pat your shoulder because your character has grown. Good job! However, if the answer is no, you should revise your story and how it could change your character's way of thinking.

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