What is the best way to develop character? Need Help.:

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What is the best and or fastest way to develop a character? I have a cast of characters and I know them pretty well but how do I get the reader to know what I know? Or at least what they should and need to know about the characters? How much time do I spend on them before getting into the meat of the story.

For instance if the characters were Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman? Or Wolverine, Cyclops and Jean Grey? Assuming the reader have never heard of these characters what would be the best and quickest ways to show their characters and basic histories? Especially if it is in a world nothing like our own to make comparisons to.

How do I make the reader know enough to care and not say so what?

I could really use some help with this.


Insane Psychopath!
Assuming the readers do not necessarily know the characters motivations, or general backstories, usually the best method is to introduce character development gradually and subtlety, but not too slowly.

For instance: Using a known character for a minute, I'll use an example. From Fullmetal Alchemist, Envy.

Now, at first, to the readers, I would introduce him as he was portrayed in the anime/manga; however, depending on the type of story — let's say it involves Envy learning what 'human emotions are.' I would slowly and gradually introduce the character to the concept while presenting it to the reader in a slow manner; Envy would gradually grow, over the course of the story, to understand human emotion through his interactions with other characters in the story, whether good or bad, slowly edging forth subtle, as well as minor changes in his general attitude; if it was the 'bad' type, i.e. learning to despise them more, it would be a subtle change in aggressive tone, body movement and language, or what have you, whereas the opposite, a slightly more relaxed, but still recognizable bit of body language, motion, and the tone of his voice/etc.

It doesn't always have to be subtle, of course, but the small details can really make a character development. My advice; don't take it too quickly, -or- too lengthy. Find just the right amount can be difficult, but it isn't impossible.

Another piece of advice; get into your character's head. Think like them, feel like them, get a feel for their motives, believes, etc. Pour a little bit of yourself into them to see how they would react or do certain things, etc. to make it very believable as well as put a little emotional investment, but not too much. Too much can lead to rapid depression, or other mental side-effects, but putting emotional effort and investment into the character him or herself, putting yourself into their shows and imagining it in their POV — but writing it in say, third person — is the best way to convey something emotional, plausible and believable, depending on the character; if it's a canon, it's much harder obviously, but still not impossible.

There is no 'fast' or quick way; just a median way where it just feels 'correct' and 'just right.' Finding it is all up to you, but there's some of my advice. I hope it helps.
If life gives you lemons, make grape juice, and sit back, while the world wonders how you made it.
3 MadassAlex20th Oct 2010 02:04:08 AM from the Middle Ages.
I am vexed!
My rule of thumb is this:

Always give major characters something they're passionate about and something they hate.
My teacher's a panda
First impressions are very important, therefore it is very important that your character's first appearance be the most definitive. As soon as the character enters the room, the viewers should immediately know who he is as a character. His personality should show through the things he does and the things he say. If you truly know who the characters are, it will be reflected in the character's actions and dialogue. Don't spend paragraphs of narration trying to describe the character, his personality or personal beliefs. Let the viewers "see" it though the character himself.

Just write. Your characters know what they are doing. If you know who your characters are, you will naturally write in a way that is indicative of who they are. The characters actions and words will naturally reflect their personalities. If you do have trouble writing in a way reflective of who the characters are, the problem is likely that you don't know the characters as well as you thought. One exercise that helps me is to open up a word document and to start writing out an imaginary interview with the cast of my story. I like to have them all sitting in a room together while an imaginary and invisible interviewer asks them personal questions, and then have them each answer the question and giving them the freedom to react to each other's responses.

About backstories, my advice is to ignore it altogether. It's good for characters to have them, but it's not necessary for the audience to know them right away. The viewers really care about who the character is in the present and what he is doing at the moment. Only worry about revealing the past when it becomes relevant.

Also, listen to your characters and be open to changes. You may think you know your characters at the moment, but once you start writing, your characters may begin to tell you that they are something completely different than what you originally planned. They may decide they want to develop an unusual nervous habit, or decide that their mother isn't as dead as you thought, or that they don't love the character you want them to love but have fallen in love with a completely different character instead. Don't try to fight these changes. Your characters know more about themselves than you do. So you need to trust that your characters know who they are and that they will continue to do and say the things that best reflect who their characters are.
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