More on Archetypes
MORE ON CHARACTER BUILDING
Let’s suppose you have an idea for a story for which you have created a heroine and other characters you’ll need. You have created a biographical profile for each of them.
No biography for each main characters? Then let’s begin. You have interviewed your characters and now you know what they like, dislike, what their dreams are and what accomplishments they have made so far.
Begin at birth and write a biography, relationships with parents, growing up, schooling, friends, etc. As you write a character’s life, she/he becomes real and is right there alongside you. Of course, you will not put much of all that information in the novel, but it will help you make that character act according to the personality you have discovered when writing the biography. The character jumps out of the page.
Some writers cut pictures out of magazines or print them off the internet to have a visual help. If it is a well-known actor/actress or other known figure, be careful not to let your character adopt some of that person personality traits. It could influence your ideas for your character. This could make one of the secondary characters, for example, take over the story by behaving in a manner you had not planned. It could be you feel drawn to that character more than others and it dominates or changes the story. Although most novels are driven by the characters – especially romantic stories – you, the writer, must remain in control of your characters. That’s why you must know your characters thoroughly.
It is a good idea to have at hand a checklist of the essential points you mapped out in the biography, or the biography with highlights of those essential points. Especially if you describes the physic of a character. You don’t want to have her blonde at the beginning and a brunette later on, or a red dress that becomes white pants in the same scene.
Critics often use the term flat or two dimensional characters to describe poorly developed characters. Strictly speaking a flat character is one that does not change in the course of the novel. A well-rounded character is bound to be affected by the events happening in the novel and some evolution of that character needs to be shown. Even secondary characters will be affected by the drama, but whereas the main characters need to have priority the secondary characters cannot stand like a bloc of granite during the same drama.
If you write historical novels, or historical fiction, all the the building of characters apply with the added stress on being true to the period. Being true to a period involves language, customs, dress (including shoes), food, transport and the distinction of classes as well as the geography and dwellings. It means a lot of research.
Now that you have fully rounded main characters brings them on stage right at the beginning of the novel. Secondary characters should appear as early as possible, and if one is only needed in chapter 20, make sure there are clues about that character so it doesn’t come out of the blue.