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

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 20, 2014
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.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Character Invite.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero