I. Fiction Tips

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How do I improve my character development?

How to improve your character development?

People ask me this question a lot, and I generally don't know how to answer it except to say that the characters they’re working into the novel are unconscious representations of themselves. I used to struggle with character development. Then I realized that in a character based novel, the characters themselves make up the book, which meant that each of them would need to have a different personality offering of themselves various subsets of the plot. I like to use repetition when developing my characters. It’s a common tool. When you sit down to brainstorm, think of your novel like a movie, and use your words like a lens. Zoom in on the important aspects of each character, whatever they are. Zoom in closer on the more important ones. Your reader will see it if you write and place it well. The plot will work its way in once the character’s personality is clear to you, but that won’t happen until the characters and their internal/external conflicts are addressed. Authors often make the mistake of working characters into a novel. It’s the other way around in today’s novels. Characters create the setting, the plot…you create the characters. It’s also helpful to carry around scratch pads so that you can write down ideas. I used to carry one. If I saw someone walking down the street in a blue shirt and clown shoes and thought it would be neat in a story, I’d write it down. Just have fun, you’ll get to know your characters and the book will end up taking you to places you had no idea even existed.

How do you know when a story needs to be written?

How do you know when a story needs to be written?

Any author of any poem, short story, novel or novella, can say with a fair degree of certainty that being a writer makes up a significant part of their personality. Some would go as far as saying that being a writer is their personality, and that the rest just falls into place, which is exactly what a good story should do. I’ve seen many people over the years start a story and struggle to finish it. Most of the time they just throw it out or save it in a cardboard box with the rest of their would-be discarded material. Then they wake up at three o clock in the morning. They start writing and can’t stop. The story that’s supposed to be written is the one that comes out unabashedly, the one you write with no restraint. It’s the story that you can’t stop writing. While nothing that comes out can claim to be separate from expression of self, the story that needs to be written will trick your brain into working the deepest, most secret and intimate parts of yourself onto the page. It beckons, it longs. When you find that story, you’ll find your voice, and sooner or later you’ll stop asking where it is.

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Christina Chan