Who is your favourite character?
Do you have one?
I think we all do.
There is always someone in some book that comes alive to us and makes us realise just how powerful the written word can be. We thrill as we share their story, their journey. We are happy when they are happy and crushed when they are crushed. We follow them as they navigate their world and we see what they see and learn what they learn.
Good writing requires good characters. They are the backbone of any story and bring it to life. Without well-developed characters, your writing will lack depth and meaning. Readers want to be able to connect with the characters they encounter in your writing, and they will be more engaged with your story if they can relate to and care about your characters.
Character Development Techniques
To create strong characters, try using the following techniques:
Give your characters flaws, quirks, and unique personality traits
Give your characters background stories and motivations that shape their actions
Show, don’t tell, how your characters feel and what they are thinking
Allow your characters to grow and change over the course of your story
To help you develop your character writing I have created some exercises for you to complete. I hope you find them useful. Work thorough some or all of these exercises and as you do so think about how you are bringing your character to life. They always say that we should write what we know so perhaps you will find it useful to use your own experiences as a starting point for the exercises. Use your memory and emotions to shape your character.
1. Write a scene in which your character experiences a strong emotional response to a particular sensory input (such as the smell of freshly baked bread, the sound of rain, or the touch of a loved one’s hand). Use the character’s physical reaction to this input to reveal deeper aspects of their personality, such as their fears, desires, or past experiences.
2. Choose a character from one of your previous stories and rewrite a scene from their perspective. Use this exercise to delve deeper into the character’s motivations, thought processes, and emotional states, and to gain a more nuanced understanding of their personality.
3. Create a character who is radically different from yourself in terms of their background, beliefs, or experiences. Write a scene in which you explore the character’s worldview and the challenges they face as a result of their unique perspective.
4. Write a scene in which your character is confronted with a difficult ethical decision. Use this exercise to reveal the character’s values, beliefs, and moral compass, and to explore the consequences of their actions.
5. Create a character who is struggling with a physical or mental health issue. Write a scene in which the character confronts their condition and the impact it has on their life and relationships.
6. Write a scene in which your character interacts with a member of their family, either a parent, sibling, or child. Use this exercise to explore the character’s family dynamics, the history of their relationships, and the ways in which their family has shaped their personality and worldview.
7. Create a character who is dealing with a major life change, such as a move to a new city, the loss of a job, or the end of a relationship. Write a scene in which the character reflects on the change and struggles to adjust to their new circumstances.
8. Write a scene in which your character faces a significant challenge or obstacle. Use this exercise to reveal the character’s strengths and weaknesses, their problem-solving skills, and their ability to overcome adversity.
9. Create a character who has a secret or hidden aspect of their personality, such as a hidden talent, a buried trauma, or a secret identity. Write a scene in which the character confronts this hidden aspect of themselves and begins to grapple with its implications.
10. Write a scene in which your character faces a moral dilemma or ethical conflict. Use this exercise to explore the character’s values, beliefs, and sense of right and wrong, and to reveal the complex nuances of their personality and worldview.
The question is, why should you complete these exercises? What help will they be? Well, if you are in need of any more motivation, here are five reasons why you might give these exercises a go:
Develop unforgettable characters: Writing compelling characters is key to a successful novel. Completing these exercises will give you the tools to create characters that are unique, relatable, and unforgettable. You’ll be able to craft multi-dimensional characters that readers will care about and remember long after they finish your book.
Sharpen your writing skills: These exercises will challenge you to think more deeply about your characters and their motivations, helping you to improve your writing skills. You’ll learn how to use sensory details, dialogue, and inner monologue to reveal your character’s personality and emotions in a more nuanced way.
Explore complex themes: Through these exercises, you’ll be able to explore complex themes such as morality, identity, and family dynamics. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the human condition and the issues that shape our lives, making your writing more meaningful and resonant.
Overcome writer’s block: If you’re struggling to get started on a new project or find yourself stuck in a rut, completing these exercises can help you overcome writer’s block. By focusing on character development, you’ll be able to generate new ideas and break through creative barriers.
Fulfil your creative potential: Ultimately, these exercises will help you fulfil your creative potential as a writer. By delving deeper into your characters and their inner worlds, you’ll be able to create stories that are rich, meaningful, and satisfying. You’ll become a more skilled and confident writer, and your readers will thank you for it.
Developing strong characters is an important aspect of effective writing. By creating characters that are believable, relatable, and memorable, you can keep your readers engaged and invested in your story. Experiment with different character development techniques and consider using common character archetypes as a starting point. With time and practice, you will be able to craft characters that are truly unique and memorable.
If you would like to see how this works in the real world then why not check out my best-selling VIRO series on Amazon. The books tell the story of Jake, a boy with special needs looking for his missing mother. Jake wakes one morning to find his life is broken. His mum has gone missing. The world has fallen apart. Determined to find her, Jake is forced to comes to terms with what has happened to the world. Confronted by the horror, he initially struggles to make sense of everything. Helped by the new friends he makes, Ellis, kind and resourceful, and the twins, Amber and Abe, Jake starts to develop his independence. Forced to confront the apparent difference defined by his special needs, Jake realises that this difference doesn’t matter any more. This gives him the strength to keep going. As they fight for survival, the four kids meet a wide range of other people also battling to stay alive and with each encounter Jake and his new friends learn a little bit more about themselves and each other. Ultimately, Jake’s story is one of hope and determination in the face of complete and utter devastation. Here are some real-world reviews for the VIRO series:
‘This review is for the series. Capturing the voice of a young character with special needs (I spent 25 years as a special education teacher/administrator), Taylor’s story of a group of young people coping with a world disintegrating in front of them; with the loss of structure and trust, and with betrayal by the adults who should be protecting them is both uplifting and horrifying. Do not be fooled by the simple language of the narrator: there are hard questions asked and realistic, unsentimental consequences to the apocalypse confronting the children, and an ending that you are unlikely to forget easily.’
‘Barnaby Taylor has a daring and rich imagination that transports you to new adventures in a re-imagined world, that are vividly written with a fresh and vibrant use of language. […] Barnaby can really write an action packed scene with fear inspiring characters such as the Tall Man. Baxter the dog who accompanies the children gives the story the delightful twist of feeling like an apocalyptic Famous Five. Genius.’
‘The writing style is beautifully compelling, and after the first couple of pages I couldn’t put it down. The author very skilfully creates a world and characters through deceptively simple prose that draws the reader right in. It is a fascinating blend of one-after-the-other edge-of-the seat scares, alongside a haunting narrative about what it is to be human.’
‘Barnaby is an exciting and passionate writer. There’s real depth of meaning behind his books. You emotionally engage with and care about the book’s characters. Barnaby’s books also have a strong visual sensibility. His stories particularly Viros I and II would translate superbly to television and cinema. I am a huge fan of all things zombie orientated and to see the zombie genre reinterpreted from the perspective of children is thrilling. I look forward to more books from Barnaby. He’s one to watch out for. Children, adults and I suspect the film and TV industry people will love this book. I highly recommend it.’
‘I absolutely loved this book. Powerful and poignant, ‘Viro’ packs a punch. Sad and haunting, ‘Viro’ is a new take on the zombie genre. The characters are dynamic and interesting, finding strength despite their horrifying circumstances. Jake is a character that will stick with you long after the final page. The action sequences are thrilling. I was on the edge of my seat!’
Dear Writing Friends,
As a writer, it can sometimes be difficult to find the support and encouragement we need to keep going. That’s why it’s so important to connect with others who share our passion and can offer valuable feedback and advice. Leaving a comment is a great way to start a conversation and connect with other writers who are on a similar journey.
By sharing our experiences, challenges, and successes, we can learn from each other and grow as writers. We can offer encouragement and support when someone is struggling, and celebrate each other’s achievements when they reach a milestone.
Furthermore, starting a conversation can help to hold us accountable to our writing goals. When we share our progress with others, we are more likely to stay committed to our writing and make meaningful progress towards our goals.
Finally, leaving a comment and starting a conversation is an excellent way to build community and find the support and encouragement we need to keep writing. So why not take a moment to share your thoughts and connect with other writers today?