So I’m in the middle of creating and fleshing-out characters for my novel. It feels like a totally new process than what I went through before, and that’s exciting. Instead of spending so much time on plot, this time I’m focusing solely on developing realistic, multi-layered characters first.
That said, it’s not necessarily easy. For a while I didn’t know where to begin, and even now that I’ve started I keep asking myself, how do I choose what goes into a character’s backstory? How much detail should I go into? Are my characters realistic enough?
Of course, there are no right answers to those questions, but I’ve been reading Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress to give myself a starting point. It has some fun, character-building exercises at the end of each chapter. I’ve also found a list of 100 questions online to answer about my main characters that’s been extremely helpful. Here’s the link.
I find it very interesting how much backstory affects the way the characters seem to turn out. Just one event can have a big effect on a character’s demeanor and personality. I feel like this is very true to life, in that people’s pasts- and how they deal with them- make up a part of who they are, however big or small. I guess that’s the whole idea behind creating backstories- to emulate how real people develop into who they are today.
Anyway, for now I’m just going to continue adding more detail to my characters’ lives and descriptions. I’m still not sure of when they’ll be fleshed-out enough and when I can move on to the other steps of the outlining process.
One thing I’m working hard to get is a distinctive voice for the main character/narrator. Maybe when that happens I’ll feel ready to move on.
How much character development do you do before starting a story? Do you go into a lot of detail or just dive in?
Have a great week!