Character Development… At First…

Hi Jim,

I was wondering if you could comment on how much of an introduction we should give each of our characters? I’ve gotten a good description down, but how much time should we initially spend focused on the characters personality and traits before really diving into the story.

Thanks,
Adrienne



Hi Adrienne,

Good question and the answer is pretty straight forward; AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE TO GIVE THE AUDIENCE AN IDEA ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER. Sorry to say this in all caps, but it merits saying.

If your character is a good person, made that known with one or two examples and then move on. If your character has a hard life, use a scene to describe that characters living arrangements and move on. After that, let the audience put the rest together through their actions or reveal more as the story goes on.

Example: [Spoiler Alert]
In Soul Siphon, my character Mary is a fairly harshly spoken character. A few of the other characters mention it, but then I let the way she speaks to everyone and their reactions to her do the rest of the work. I also allude to her having a dark past surrounding how she wound up where she is, but I don’t straight out say what happened to her until about half way through the story.

Honestly, if you go about writing a boatload of exposition about how boring the town your character lives in, eventually your audience gets bored… really bored.

I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a horror movie on Netflix and sit there waiting to be scared. Instead they go on and on about the scenery or the characters’ back story. I sit there watching the character react to how bad their job is, how their relationship is falling apart, how bad their neighborhood is, or how bad they’re being bullied. It gets so bad that I often forget that I’m watching a horror movie!

Honestly, most of the best ones have at least given you some kind of scare within the first few minutes. The Exorcist and Jaws had scares literally within the first few seconds. Most comedies do the same, giving you something to work with.

Honestly, in a 90 minute film, if we’ve hit the 30 minute mark without a single scare/laugh… or even an attempt at one, then I usually leave the movie with a bad review and move on to the next one.

The same goes for books. If I get to a certain point in a story where its just droning on and on about character description and exposition, that book usually gets thrown across the room.
Put it this way, if your characters are too weak for an audience to be able to relate to them without page after page of description, then it may be time to shelve those characters.

Readers, what do you think? Is a lot of description and exposition needed or should it be spread throughout the book?



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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2 thoughts on “Character Development… At First…

  1. I agree. I wouldn’t want get bogged down with just knowing everything about this person. Where’s the mystery and interest holder if all is revealed about that character?

    Like

  2. I personally think that a character’s back story should be shown in his or her actions, not laid out in great detail.

    Like

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