Character development for novels entails creating a detailed back story for the lead characters. For me, it is important to create the back story for the main characters before I start the plot. I may know in general where the story is going and how it will end, but for detailed plotting I must know what these particular characters would and would not do.
For the female lead, I want to have in writing when and where she was born; a little information about her parents; where she lived before she went to high school; when and where she graduated from high school; when and where she graduated from college; her major and degree(s); and what kind of guys she dated before the story begins. Of course, I record her physical description. Sometimes I include her tastes in music, TV shows, and movies.
If the character is from a particular culture, religious faith, or country outside my own experience, I research those differences and record applicable details.
The process is repeated for the male lead character.
It is an exciting process since the character emerges more clearly with every detail added. Sometimes the original name I have given the character just doesn’t fit the “person” who has emerged. Usually I will have researched the most popular female and male names in the years the characters were born. I don’t hesitate to change my original choice if it just does not fit the “person” fleshed out by all those details.
Although the back story development is time consuming, it saves me time on those long hard writing days. Dialog and plot come more easily when they are based on “people” I know. The back story keeps me from wasting time on plots that just don’t fit.
Not every detail of the back stories will find their way onto the pages of the finished product. Oftentimes those details hover between the lines for a discerning reader to discover and enjoy.
About the Post Author:
I may have inherited my interest in storytelling from my father who could spin a good tale. Then came my degree in journalism and a lifelong career in many kinds of communication.
I served more than 14 years in various positions in association management.
Before and after association management, I enjoyed freelance manuscript book editing (21 books). Many of those books were on behavioral psychology.
Along the way, I also served for nine years as media contractor for Region 6 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (5 states and the Indian Nations via the Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Highway Safety Program). My duties there included writing many news releases, news conference notifications, public service announcements, and age-specific educational materials for Region 6 entities and their partners.
Now I enjoy writing ebooks for adults and children.