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  • BethBlack

So, you have some time to write...

It's happened. The gods have played their tricks, and it has arrived. Remember all those years you dreamed of time to write? Well, you're at home with a keyboard. So, why not give it a shot? I ask just one thing of you: Please learn the difference between typing and writing.

To help, here are a few tips on developing a character. These ideas come from many authors who have shared their secrets, and I'm passing them along to you. When designing your cast list, I suggest arranging your characters carefully. Keep in mind that the dynamic between characters will be the main source of your drama, comedy, plot and more. So, for example, if you have a short pushy male and a willowy, shy female ... their dialogue and even their plot can wind up very different from a story about two shy characters. I'm not arguing that one is better than the other; but how you orchestrate your cast will affect what happens and how it happens.

So, start by creating a Character Description for each main character. Not every aspect of this will end up in the piece, but you should know a lot about the person you're creating. If you're interested in a plot-driven story, you may want to build your cast with characteristics that will add depth and originality while also supporting the outcome you desire. Begin by answering each of the following:


Basic Characteristics: Name, gender (or cross-gender/nongender), race (type of alien for SciFi), birthplace, age, level of education (and type), past and current residences, health issues (if any, or none), marital status (including throuple, etc).


Distinguishing Traits: Weight, height, accent, fast/slow talker, high/low voice, physical issue (wooden leg?), personal mannerisms, clothing style, hair type/style, in/out of fashion. A man who is 6'7" tall will constantly duck low ceilings and other problems, maybe out of habit. A woman who is 4'9" may have her own way of reaching tall shelves in public, because maybe she's tired of asking strangers for help. It depends on the character, and it's best when it adds to the plot. Think of the 2019 film, Knives Out, with a lead character who vomited every time she told a lie. In what could have been a standard whodunit, she became a human lie detector pushing the story forward in key moments. And she added a good amount of original humor to the film.


Backstory: Grew up where? Happy childhood? Raised by own parents? Adults' values, beliefs, jobs, friends, associates, stability (home/jobs). Siblings? Close to family? Childhood illness? Friends? Enemies?


Intelligence: Good/poor student? Reader? Learning disability? Self-taught? Advance degree(s)? School of Hard Knocks?


This is only the beginning of a Character Description. If someone were writing about you, wouldn't they also need to consider aspects such as your mental health, politics and religion? So, begin with the above, and we'll add more later.


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