Why is developing characters important? You can know everything about them, where they’re from, their parents, childhood, the world, and so on. In real life, how do we get to know a person? By spending time with that person and learning about each other.
Characters in books are just like any other person we meet in real life, but if you want to make your characters feel real, complex, and flawed, why develop them into being rather than just writing those characters the way we meet a person in real life.
Developing characters is a waste of time and energy, here’s a list of reasons why:
#1: You Don’t Need To Know Everything About Them
There’s this common idea for writers, and that’s knowing everything about your characters. Needing to know everything at the beginning is a lot of effort for something small, but important. But why go through the whole process to have a detailed description of characters, deep dive into every aspect of their childhood, teens, school, occupation, and world – building one character at a time. No, this is a wrong way to go about creating characters, especially if you have a lot of them. No wonder it’s taking years to write, because you’re stuck in phase two all this time. Okay, yes, sounds a bit harsh, but someone had to say it. If no one is honest with you, you’ll never be a great writer!
#2: The Past Is In the Past
The past, also known as the background of a character, is irrelevant when writing your story. Yes, the past makes the character, but do you need to tell the reader everything about the past of your main character. You don’t need to tell your reader that the character had changed the color of their hair, or the time that character went to the amusement park and ate too much cotton candy. If the event that happened in the past isn’t relevant to the current story, why mention it? No one asked, and no one wanted to know. The past is in the past and leave it there. It’s like the famous saying goes, “If in Act 1 you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act.” – Anton Chekhov.
This is famously known as Chekhov’s Gun. The saying means, if you have something like a gun or anything else, you have to use it. Same for past events.
#3: Personality Isn’t Meant To Be Created
Personality is what makes a person a person. Kind, caring, honest, sweet, and so on. Personality comes from character. So, why the heck make a list of qualities for a character? They already have it. If you’re one of these writers who lists qualities to create a personality for your characters, I want you to stop and keep reading what I’m trying to get to the point of. Everyone on earth has a personality, actors too, they’re people. So are the characters they play in movies and TV shows. So, personality isn’t what you create, it’s what you get to know, remember that.
#4: You Don’t Need Character Arcs and Infographics
All of those pretty colors that give you a character journey or plot, or any graphic out there that will help you map out every cornerstone of your story is a trap. It’s fun to see all these things and put them down in a notebook. If you just like making a notebook with all this pretty graphics, go ahead, that’s completely fine. But if you’re a writer, I don’t recommend it, because you don’t need it. You can have a few to get you started, no problem, but don’t go overboard. For one, too much information, and two, focus on process rather than structure. The process will help you with structure along the way. This is called the Rabbit Hole, you know the one when Alice goes down into this hole and finds herself in Wonderland, yes, that one. Avoid the Wonderland Hole in the ground and focus on what’s next in your process rather than researching forever and endlessly.
#5: Too Much Work To Keep Up With
Do you have tons of paper and notebooks in your closet? I won’t be surprised, especially for writers. But let’s say you want to work on an old story you found that has so many notes, you have no idea where to start. Or, you already have a story that’s either fantasy or science fiction and you’re going through so many maps you drew out for yourself. Come to think of it, you have to remember everything you write to keep up with it. If this is you, then you’ll have to reassess everything and get rid of your story babies. Treat yourself to an iPad, take pictures of everything, and throw it away, except your first stories, and that’s all you need. There’s too much work involved in writing a book, and to keep up with. You don’t need to keep up with anything at all, no more stacks of paper, we’re in the 21st Century people, in the digital age, get with the program and join the tribe!
#6: Your Story has Too Many Plot Holes
Have you ever reread your old manuscript and thought to yourself, “my goodness, there’s so many problems in this story.” One moment it’s morning and another it’s nighttime, the names of characters are different, from one setting to a different one, one moment this character has this color of skin, and eyes then it’s different, and the list goes on and on. Obviously, there’s always going to be plot holes, but with characters it gets annoying, you don’t want that. And, when you have too many plot holes with these characters, you completely forget which one has what! That’s the courtesy of plot holes. Another good reason why developing characters from scratch is a waste of time, because your time is precious, and it won’t wait for you.
#7: I Have Too Many Characters And I Forgot Who Has What
Speaking of who has what, what if your story is a complete mess like a construction site, and you’re baffled how much is broken. Why so many characters in the first place, though? A story shouldn’t have a ton of characters, that’s not the way it works. My professional advice: if this is a problem you’re facing, start over and have a few characters. That way, you know who has what eye color, skin color, hair, and all of that. But please, no more character profiles, you don’t need it, trust yourself.
#8: Lists of Characteristics, Quirks, Flaws, and Faults …
Back on topic on listing characteristics, other kinds of lists like quirks, flaws, faults, and more to add to your character profiles. Long lists of all these things are such a waste of time. Do you really need to know all of these things firsthand? No, you don’t. Listing everything about your characters is a waste of space and paper. Who needs real paper when you have a remarkable 2, a paper tablet digital notebook. It stores everything in its digital database. Can we stop taking down trees to make paper so we can save the planet? Writers, it’s time to change your methods.
#9: The Kitchen Sink of Nationality, History, Systems, and How Everything Works In the World
Do you know the term kitchen sink? It’s basically overloading anything and everything. Imagine this as a story, for example, your story world. Systems, magic, how the world works, history, nationality, and the list goes on. All of that is considered the kitchen sink. It’s like piling dirty dishes as the leaning tower of dishes of Pisa! Now, how the heck are you going to incorporate all of that research, kitchen sink information in a book or more? It’s not possible, let alone characters, and I thought that’s the worst of it. Everything I have mentioned so far is exactly what every writer needs to know. I understand that everyone else has similar info like this, but here’s how I’m different, telling you the hard truth.
As you can see, there’s a ton of things to consider when you’re developing characters, here’s my process:
1. Character names.
2. Cast characters as actors.
That’s it, this is what I do all the time for every story, so no more time is wasted.
Create your Marvelous Tomorrow, and I’ll write soon.