Guest Post: Character Development by Courtney Davis

I love characters, I often start a new story based solely on an idea for a character that I would
like to see developed. For me it’s really all about how a character acts and interacts with their
environment and the other people around them and scenarios of misfortune that I can cook up. This is
what I like to delve into as I write and as I read.
Since I write mainly in the urban fantasy genre, I usually start with a power or ability that feels a
bit new and interesting, then I think up a good counterpart for them. What kind of romantic interest
might have what kind of power that will interact well, or not so well, with this character. I plan their look
right away, hair, eyes, clothing style too. And flaws, what are they bad at, what will they constantly be
dealing with as an issue in their life? Clumsy or bite their nails or tug their hair when they’re nervous.
Even supernaturals are only human, sort of, they can’t be perfect, or they won’t be all that interesting or
relatable. What about religious beliefs? I need to picture them fully in my head to know how they are
going to act.
A big one is to make sure that you know what they won’t do, what’s their hard no. I’m saving
the world but not at the expense of freedom? Or not at the expense of myself? Etc.… What won’t they
do to get the job done? Fears maybe?
After that I decide on a few basics of where and when this person lives, and I begin to fill them
out. I decide on childhood, possible traumas that might influence how they act or react. Do they have
living parents? Are they still alive, supportive? Friendships and goals are next, who is supporting them,
or not in their lives, and what are they after in a broad life sense, not necessarily related to the problem
they might need to solve in the book. A character’s life/career goal is going to influence decisions they
make along the way of a story. For example, do they aspire to be an Olympic swimmer, a seamstress, a
housewife? Or are they hoping to save the world and be a superhero? I need to know.
Then I put them in the story. I try to make their actions and reactions as realistic as possible to
someone who has their history and desires. I don’t like when I’m reading a book and it seems the
character suddenly does something that is so far out of character just to be able to solve a problem, or
perhaps to extend the plot. So I try to avoid that as much as possible in my writing.
I really let my characters lead the story, I don’t plan much before writing so it comes down to
what would this character do here, and then, oh, okay we need to move in this direction then.
Another thing I try and put into place for my characters is a reasonable and believable arch in
their love development. Some of this can be gotten around by supernatural instincts, depending on the
character, they may be driven to love each other and get to skip the getting to know you stage. But I still
like to make it believable. I think it’s important to have the character’s feelings follow a reasonable arch
to love, or lust maybe depending on the story. For example in my Fawn Malero series, although they are
in a relationship, Fawn and Logan are not committed completely, they are not telling each other how
much they love each other, at least not in the first two books…
I think its very important to remember that all of these things should be done for more than just
your main character. I think you should have a deep understanding of your major side characters as
well; this will help them all feel more alive to the reader and sometimes, you end up loving them so
much you give them their own story! What a great problem to run into.
I think that if you start out with a deep knowledge of your character, it’s easy to make their
development through the story believable.

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