Article written by The Blue Wolf. Edited by Matthew Williams and Kylewayne. Character Creation The first step in character development occurs before writing even starts; this is of course character creation. Some may believe that a character can be given a name, age, gender, one characteristic, and a purpose in the story. However for a truly great character to be created more thought must be put into who this person is before writing begins. Below I have written three basic stages of character creation that one should go through with a character before using them in the piece. Primal Function When you take away everything from a character, all the details and identity you have nothing but a plot device. Now while the phrase “plot device” sounds like a dirty word, it is the primal function of a character to move the story and get the reader/viewer from point A to point B. So before you do anything with a character you must decide what the function of this character is in the story, you mask be able to answer the question “why does this character exist?” The function should come to you fairly easily like a dream or passing thought it should just come to you. Device to Caricature After you understand the function of the character within the story you must then begin to create an identity for the character. In the early stages of writing and conceptualizing your character will not need much identity, just enough so you have some understanding of whom you’re writing about. At this point the character will only be a caricature. You’ll have a rough idea of their personality and appearance. Also you will begin to understand how they interact with other characters and some of their history. Caricature to Identity At some point the character must evolve from caricature and develop a fleshed out identity. How fleshed out this identity needs to be is on a story-to-story basis. Basically however strong and full the identity needs to be for the story is how strong and full it should be. Judging at which point the character fully develops is also case-by-case. In some cases the writer will have the character fully realized before writing, while in other cases the character is not realized till the writer finishes the story. Also affecting this is the medium of the story. If it is a series of stories, or a continuing medium such as television, the character is rarely fully explored or fleshed out at the start. The Homer Simpson of Season 1 of the Simpsons is different than the Homer that most of us are familiar with today. Development After a character is created he must then be developed in the story. Developing a character is an important skill. It not only serves the purpose of giving the reader a larger understanding of you’re writing but when done well can lead to the reader caring about the character. I have broken down some key skills and rules involved in character development, written below. The Art of Curtain Pulling When developing a character throughout a story details and little factoids about the character and his past are inevitably revealed. However force-feeding or presenting information too quickly is a dangerous mistake. When developing a character think of it as pulling a curtain with the character behind it, slowly reveal what’s behind the curtain as in the story you must slowly reveal who this person is and not just give a massive introduction. Tell What You Need There is no solid rule that states what is too much information and what is too little information about a character in a story. A good rule to go by that we touched on before is “you need to know what you need to know.” For example if your story is about the main character being abusive to his girlfriend and son then the reader probably should know that the character was abused as a child. However if the character was abused as a child and the story is about his roommate being raped, then we may not need to know that he was abused since it’s not too relevant to the story. So what is revealed about a character’s history is something you should be moderate with or you might just pack on a lot of needless details. Show and Don’t Tell Sometimes it is better to not be blatant with certain aspects of your character’s life and history. This concept is referred to as “show, don’t tell.” Basically the concept means that you can say things about a character by how they look, certain mannerisms, actions, and tone of voice. It can add a lot of realism to the work and is a more subtle way to say things about the character without deviating from the story. This technique can be dangerous and harm your writing if used too much, however it is a wonderful technique to develop characters and add something to your work. The Small Stuff This last little section doesn’t apply to all literary works; it depends on how dominant the characters in the story are and how much action and dialogue are. When developing a character some writers have a tendency to write too much about history, and ignore more small details about the character. It is important to develop the character’s voice and action. One must put thought into things like speech patterns, mannerisms, taste in music, how they walk, what they eat, and so on. It isn’t necessary to go too much into detail (see: Tell What You Need) however knowing how your character dots his eyes and how they talk (this is a very important aspect, you must always attempt to give your character a voice at least slightly different than your own) can help develop a stronger identity for the character.