Recently, I’ve really been struggling with finding my protagonist’s motivation and core need, two vital ingredients for likable, believable characters. I think that to find this, you must look at the character’s whole personality. Today, I tried a new approach for character development that worked very well: mind mapping. I use a free software called XMind. This created a picture of my protagonist’s complete personality: strengths, weaknesses, fears. To start, I put his name in the center. Then, I made a main topic for each of his personality traits. Then, I created subtopics off of the main topics. These are examples of the personality trait or how it affects their life.
Main topic: strong
Subtopics: he likes to exercise, he’s a good leader, he’s calm under pressure.
Click to see my protagonist’s mindmap
I learned two things today. First, find your character’s motivation and core need before you figure out the rest of their personality, and second, use a mind map and a character development worksheet. This forces you to think about your character in two different ways, it uses different parts of your brain.
I’ve been developing my novel writing skills by reading K.M Weiland’s blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, and her how-to write books. I learned a valuable lesson this week from her advice.
She believes that authors can’t have a favorite character when they are writing a book, and she tells you why in this blog post. She says that it really affects your writing and I’ve found that this is true. A few days ago, I was reading parts of my rough draft of my book and realized that it’s very obvious that my protagonist is my favorite character. It’s also obvious that I’m not very interested in any of the other characters. All my moments of brilliance in dialogue or plot came when I was writing about my protagonist. The scenes without him are very elementary and boring.
I’ve learned that these things help you love all of your characters:
1. Give every character a back story. This really helps you understand why they act a certain way or make the choices they do.
2. Spend the same amount of time and effort on all of your characters.
3. Decide to be interested in all of their lives. I try to find something interesting or endearing about all of my characters now, even the ones that don’t excite me.
Loving, or at least being interested in all of your character’s lives really does make your writing better and it will also make your story more interesting. I hope to develop this skill as an author.
Do you struggle with having a favorite character in your own novels?