Character development is something that is somewhat talked about within writer's guilds but what do those words really mean? I’ve had authors explain it to me in various ways and I even have a book (somewhere) with a bunch of chapters an author wrote on how to develop your characters.
Some authors will even spend years upon years writing out character backstories before they even think to start on the actual story. You know what, props to them! That is some well spent time.
But what’s so important about developing a character? It’s a valid question that every author should ask. For that, I’ll default to Shrek’s description to Donkey “…have layers.” If the characters we put in our stories do not have any layers they will simply become nothing more than names on a page.
Sally walked into a store. The aroma of freshly baked bread flooded her mind with memories. She exited the store, tears filling her eyes, and got in her vehicle.
Sally soon became boring and unrelatable to the reader and they quickly set down her story. Nobody wants to read about someone who has no layers of complexity. Why? Because whether we like to admit it or not, we are all composed of complex layers that make us who we are. And, more than anything, we want characters that we can relate to.
Sally walked into the store. The aroma of freshly baked bread pulled from the bakery oven took her back to her grandmother’s kitchen. The memories flooding her mind were more than she had prepared for. She quickly exited the store, wiped the tears from the corner of her eyes and hopped into her minivan.
Oh, poor Sally. Did she recently lose her grandmother? Wait, did something bad happen at her grandmother’s house? Is her grandmother even really her grandmother? Why is Sally crying? Will she ever be able to smell bread again?
Ok, maybe the reader won’t ask all these questions regarding Sally but they will subconsciously start deciphering whether Sally’s story is worth their time to continue.
Challenge for You: Evaluate the characters in your stories.