I recently took a Character Building Class through RWA University. Romance Author, HelenKay Dimon, gave great information about layering to create three dimensional characters.
One of the exercises she asked us to do was to list ten character traits for our hero/heroine/villain and then answer the question, Why? Doing so helps the writer know the motivation for their characters actions and builds a backstory. Even if the back story doesn’t make it onto the page, it is important for the writer to know.
The consistent feedback that HelenKay gave the participants was that the characters were too good—they needed more flaws. People are imperfect and it’s sometimes difficult to love and relate to a character who does everything right.
We were given two great resources to use to “interview” and develop our characters. The first is 100 Character Development Questions forWriters. The other is 25 Things You Should Know About Character by Chuck Wendig from the terribleminds website.After the class, I began to examine not only my own characters, but those created by other delicious brains. Brains!
One of my favorite television shows is The Walking Dead on AMC. In preparation for the Season 3 finale, I watched the Marathon that aired each night leading to the finale. I had seen them before but the second time around, I paid closer attention to character traits.I was curious how Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) became the instant leader of the group. There was a tell-tale scene in Season 2, Episode 7 (Pretty Much Dead Already) when Shane, in a rebellious haze of aggression, opened the barn door (where Hershel was keeping Walkers) and Rick’s group opened fire on them- excluding Rick. Then, Sophia (the little girl they’d been searching for) came out zombie-fied and Rick was the only one capable of putting her down.
There were other factors at play but, in my opinion, that moment offered a profound insight into Rick’s character and an interesting contrast to the rest of the group (some of whom were struggling with Rick’s leadership).
Do you have any character revealing moments that stand out in your mind?