How to Develop a Character

by Ivan

Question: First of all, thanks for all the help this site has been giving me, it's the best one I've seen! I'm having a small problem in my book. As I said in my previous question, I'm writing a rather depressing tale about a post-apocalyptic era. The thing is, the protagonist is a kind, nice man in the beginning, and I want him to gradually become more uncaring and a sadder person. How can I make this transition smoothly and in a realistic way? Thanks a lot in advance!


Answer: Change, as it is often said, happens slowly at first and then all at once.

You have to think about main character's throughline as a series of events.

In act one, you want one or more events where the character makes choices that show his kind nature.

In act two, show how he is having a harder time. Maybe have an event in which making the nice choice doesn't work out so well. Let him see your impact character seeming to get better results by making selfish choices.

In act three, in his most desperate hour, the main character will have his personal crisis--the moment when he must either change or remain steadfast.

Finally, it sounds as though the story will end with him having changed (become more selfish) but ending up less happy. We call this a Judgement of Bad. He changed, but regrets it. This needs to be illustrated as well.

In the events of acts two and three, while the pressure is building, you are free to have your main character waver between the two approaches for a time. Or you could have him stick to his guns until his crisis, when everything hinges on his choice. At that moment, he could lose courage, give into the pressure, and change.

The key is to see the process as a series of choices (actions or decisions) and how the results of each choice affects the next.

Best of luck.

Comments for How to Develop a Character

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Oct 20, 2014
Thanks!
by: Ivan

As always, the advice is quite helpful. Thanks a ton!

Aug 19, 2016
Characters based on real people
by: Anonymous

Hiya, I was thinking of writing a novel based on stuff that's actually happened to me, but I want it to be a fictional novel and add in lots of different things I've written a plan and when I read over my plan it's easy to tell who is who in reality the only difference is the names... But I don't want it to be exactly what happened what's the best way to change it around so nobody would be able to know who is who?

Aug 19, 2016
re: real people
by: Glen

One traditional way to handle characters based on real people is to combine traits from two or more real people into one fictional character.

Another is to simply change aspects of the character's appearance, traits, backstory, etc. until the person the character is based on wouldn't recognize the similarities.

Of course, you have to retain what's important and change the unimportant.

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