The Creative Process Behind Character Development
A story can’t get very far without characters. Whether they be human, animal, or nature personified, they are there driving the plot forward. Characters are the key to connecting the audience to the story, but it’s not as easy as it seems. For the audience to connect to a character, they must be relatable and realistic. To do that, you must give them traits, but not just for personality. Hobbies, quirks, likes, dislikes — they’re all important to the development of characters. All you have to do is choose the right ones.
I have four developed characters, seven in development, and lots more floating around in my head. I love making characters. If you told me to come up with five in an hour, I’d have 10 in half the time. I can come up with the base of a character with the snap of my fingers. However, actually developing them, giving them their own personality and unique traits, tends to take a bit longer. Usually, I think about the story I’m trying to tell and the world that I have created. Then I give my characters traits that make them realistic. For instance, I have a sci-fi story where the main character was created and genetically modified in a lab. How could I ever make her relatable? Easy. I made her feel like she didn’t fit in. Since she was made differently, I figured it only made sense that she not feel like she’s human. She will deal with this through the whole story, driven by her desire to feel normal. Deciding this led me to develop her personality, likes and dislikes, hobbies, and so much more. With one decision, I had a character.
A story can’t get very far without characters.
Sometimes, when working on a character in the back of my mind, an outside interaction could have a lot of influence. Not too long ago, while working on the development of a character, I went onto Youtube where I stumbled upon videos of people doing parkour. I remember thinking about how cool it would be to be able to do that. So I gave my character the ability to do this. Next I had to choose a name, but nothing seemed to be right. A few days later, I was listening to Walk the Moon when the song Anna Sun came on. With the story on my mind, I thought that this would be a cool song to listen to while freerunning. Then I thought that Anna would be a good name, and maybe Anna Sun could be her theme song, so I named her Annabelle. With her name chosen, it then led me to a quirk of hers. Her whole life, she didn’t care if she was called Anna or Annabelle, but never accepted Bell because she’s not a Disney princess, but with the release of the horror movie Annabelle, she will now only go by Anna, because she does not want to be associated with the doll. A weird trait, but it she now seems more real.
Most of the time, character traits come to me in a matter of seconds, other times, I have to look them up. However hard or easy it is to develop one of my characters, I like to think that they’re now realistic and relatable. When you’re working to develop your own characters, don’t be overwhelmed with whether or not you’re doing it right or not. If you ever start to wonder what traits to give them, just let your character decide for themselves. They’ll hardly ever lead you astray.
Julia Kelso,18, was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She’s an aspiring producer, writer, director who grew up involved in theatre and now attends Center For Creative Media, a Christian Film School. In addition to being a strong supporter of the arts, Julia is a left-handed, right-minded, introvert living in a right-handed, left-minded, extroverted world.