Developing characters is the most important job I have when writing a story. Because Lily was a partially developed character from another novel, her character was a little easier. Bridger, on the other hand, needed some work.In my research for character development, I found a blogger whose advice is invaluable. Mellissa Donovan's post on tips for developing character joins us along with the trick I used for Bridger.
First, here are the places you can find the live copies of Burning Bridger. Go check them out and spread the word.
BARNES & NOBLE
One of the first things I do to get to know a character is I find his wound. The thing that made him into the adult character I'm working with. This generally happens in adolescence. I write a short story, a page or so about the character at age 16 and look into their psyche. Here's Bridger's:
It didn’t look like any coffin Bridger had ever seen. Twisted aluminum poles tangled with fractured nylon scraps . The sheared ends of cord matted with blood. Why had he never seen it before?
When his father showed it off in the municipal hanger three years earlier, it represented adrenaline. When it took over every spare moment left between the old man and his son, it was a canyon. When his father screamed relentlessly at Bridger for forgetting to repair the wing, it was middle-aged true love.
Bridger sucked in a broken breath. Had that been a mere week earlier, before the final flight? Tonight, heaped in the driveway painted by the dying dusk it was a monument to his father.
Christian Bartholemew Jacoby, a sleek, graceful choreographer of financial success in life. A tortured bloody mass of broken relationships to mark his absence
Bridger winced at the sting behind his eyes before the wind smeared the moisture across his cheek. Don’t. Don’t cry over him.
Dragging the back of his hand across his face, Bridger bent over to collect the scraps from the driveway. It had been sheer dumb luck he’d been pacing around his father’s classic car collection when the recovery crew arrived. He was arguing with his urge to either slash the ‘vette’s tires, or key the ’67 fastback when the flat bed truck with the glider pulled up.
What the hell are you doing?” his voice more of a shreak than a shout.
“Our orders say to bring the recovered material to this address,” said the driver as he started the pistons to raise the flat bed. His heavy jowels jostled with every word. His denim cover-alls smattered and torn, bore a dusting of the fine red silt caked over the broken hang glider. “I was sorry to hear ‘bout the accident son. I hate doing this to people, but it’s my job to recover and return your property.”
Bridger was about to sling the battered contraption back onto the lowering bed, when he saw the blood. Rusty, dried, caked blood; his father’s final offering.
“Bridger?” His name quavered off of his mother’s lips as she stared down the walk into the drive way. “What’s going on, darling?”
“Nothing mama, Just some old equipment from Daddy’s workshop. I’ll haul it to the dump this weekend.”
Her eyes drilled into his back. Their blue flames threatening to consume him for his lies. “I can get a bit of cash for the aluminum.”
His gaze never left the blood stained wing, his broad shoulders blocking it from his mother’s sight. Arms crossed over his chest, He controlled the shaking in his body. A low frustrated vibration which threatened to take over. Tearing that thing apart would feel good. Energy, anger and disappointment flowing after a lifetime of holding it back. Not now, he assured himself silently. Don’t let Mama see.
When the kitchen door clicked shut and her Jazmin scent no longer wafted from the back porch, Bridger Let a single tear fall. Leila would be back from Trish’s house any minute, he couldn’t let her see the nightmare. She’d come apart again. His mother would soon follow.
The tailgate of his truck, still down after he’d unloaded the plantings for his mother’s Dogwood trees, accepted the material and ground out the sounds Bridger wished he could make. As he gathered the broken lines, ripped nylon and fragmented aluminum poles to load them in the pick-up, a cold anger settled over his body. His father’s life in a shattered heap. The way he lived. Bridger thought. Pieces and Parts, never making up any thing that would glide, soar, or hold air. Just a metal garbage collection. Almost real.
Almost worth holding onto. Not worth anything in the end.Now Here's Melissa's:
Character Tips by Melissa Donovan
Characters are the heart and soul of every story.
Almost every great story is about people. Plot, setting, theme, and every other element of fiction is secondary to realistic characters that an audience
can connect with on an intellectual or emotional level.
There are exceptions, of course. Some readers enjoy plot-driven stories, but they never seem to achieve the massive popularity that stories with rich, layered
characters achieve. Why do fans adore Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen? Because they feel like real people.
We connect with characters in fiction for any number of reasons. Maybe the character reminds us a little of ourselves. We might love her because she represents
who we want to be, or we might hate her because she reminds us of the parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of. Some characters feel like friends; others
remind us of our enemies.
Some writers argue that it’s not necessary for readers to connect or identify with characters in a story. That might be true to some extent, but the most
beloved stories throughout the history of literature are populated with characters we love and characters we love to hate. There’s something to be said
for making readers care.
Character Writing Tips
Readers won’t care about characters unless they are believable. So how do we make our characters realistic? Why do the most celebrated characters seem so
real even though they are made up? How have some writers managed to render animals, aliens, and even inanimate objects into characters that we embrace
The answer is simple: the best characters come with all the flaws, quirks, and baggage that real people possess. They are not just names on a page. They
have pasts and personalities, and they are unique.
Here are some character writing tips to help you develop characters that feel like real people:
list of 12 items
1. Backstory: We are born a certain way, but our life experiences continually mold and shape us. Each character has a life before the story begins. What
2. Dialogue: The way we talk depends on the language we speak and where we live (or grew up) but there’s also something unique to each person’s style of
speaking. We repeat certain words and phrases, inflect certain syllables, and make certain gestures while we speak.
3. Physical Description: Our primary method of identifying each other is the way we look; hair and eye color, height and weight, scars and tattoos, and
the style of clothing we wear are all part of our physical descriptions.
4. Name: Esmerelda doesn’t sound like a soccer mom, and Joe doesn’t sound like an evil sorcerer. Make sure the names you choose for your characters match
their personalities and the roles they play in the story.
5. Goals: Some say that a character’s goals drive the entire story. He wants to slay the dragon; she wants to overthrow the evil empire. Goals can be small
(the character wants a specific job) or big (the character is trying to save the world). Come up with a mix of small and large goals for each character.
6. Strengths and Weaknesses: Villains sometimes do nice things and heroes occasionally take the low road. What are your character’s most positive and negative
behaviors and personality traits?
7. Friends and Family: These are the people in our inner circles, and they have played important roles in shaping our personalities and our lives. Who are
your characters’ friends and family before the story starts? What new friends will they meet once the story begins?
8. Nemesis: A nemesis is someone with whom we are at odds. This character doesn’t have to be a villain, but the goals of the nemesis definitely interfere
with your main character’s goals.
9. Position in the World: What do your characters do for a living? What are their daily lives like? Where do they live? What is a character’s role or position
among his or her friends, family, or coworkers?
10. Skills and Abilities: A character’s skills and abilities can get him out of a tight spot or prevent him from being able to get out of a tight spot.
Skills can be useless or they can come in handy. Does your character have an education or special training? What can he do?
11. Gestures, Mannerisms, and Quirks: One character chews her nails while watching movies. Another runs his hand through his hair when he’s trying to figure
something out. Give your characters identifiable quirks and behaviors, like real people.
12. Fears: An old fiction writing trick is to figure out what your character is most afraid of, and then make the character face it. We all have fears;
characters should, to How to Put These Character Writing Tips into Practice?
Characters need to be detailed and complicated in order to seem real. These character tips give you a lot to consider, but how do you put them into practice?
You could tackle each idea as a separate exercise. Write your character’s backstory one day. The next day, do a page of dialogue to see how the character
speaks. Then spend some time looking for a perfect name for your character. If you work through all these tips as separate exercises, you’ll end up with
a robust character sketch, and your character will be ready to enter the plot of your story.
Character sketches are by no means mandatory. You could also start writing the draft of your manuscript and see how each of these elements develops organically
for each character. During revisions, you can check your narrative against this list to make sure the characters are consistent and have all the depth
of real people.
How do you create characters? Do you start with a character sketch or do you just start writing? Do you have a checklist (like the one above) to help youknow and understand your characters? Got any character writing tips to add to this list? Leave a comment, and keep writing!
Keep watching and leaving your e-mail addresses and I'll have more tips and guest authors as we go.