How not to develop characters

At one of the panels in which I was a guest at Lunacon this past weekend, we had a nice discussion about character development in books.  I used the example given by Dan Brown, writer of THE DAVINCI CODE.

“Dan Brown always lets you know if, for instance, a character is cynical with a good sense of humor,” I said.  “He writes: ‘Dr. Smith was cynical, with a good sense of humor.'”

If you can’t tell from the way my characters act and what they say whether they are cynical and have a good sense of humor, then I have failed as a writer.

To me, the most important aspect of any story is how it affects the characters.  Oh sure, the plot is important and keeps it exciting, but I really don’t like books (and movies) in which the hero is exactly the same before and after the adventure.

axesofevilARCH ENEMIES and its just completed sequel THE AXES OF EVIL are all about how Terin changes from the cowardly bard to a more confident “hero.” The things he goes through change him, slowly, but not unreasonably.

For instance, by the end of AXES he’s still a bit of a coward, but he considers it a reasonable reading of reality.  He doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind and showing bravery in other ways, but when a battle breaks out, he still runs to the back and tries to stay out of the way.

But I guess that goes toward another pet peeve of mine:  Main characters who within a sort span go from being a nobody to the best swordsman in the kingdom or most powerful wizard of what-have-you.  Character development to me means more than just emotional development — it means realistic development in other ways, too.

And the more real the character, the more believable all the other fantasy things I can throw into the mix!

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2 Responses

  1. Mike,

    I’ve just begun to look through your blog site. I really enjoy how you put together interviews. Your interaction with authors comes across warm and genuine, as if those you interview are sitting across from you with a cup of tea in your living room. You also ask really good questions, and I have been learning some great advice from people who are certainly in the position to give it.

    Like

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