The Character Development Piece of the Puzzle
The one thing every new author slams up against as they are writing their first book, and the one thing every experienced author needs to remember with every book they write thereafter, is just how many balls need to be juggled when you’re writing a novel. There is the story, of course, the setting, the genre expectations, usually there is research that needs to go into the book so that it is believable and accurate, and then there are the characters. Not only do authors need to ensure that their characters are well-developed, three-dimensional people, they need to make them flawed people.
All major characters in a novel need to grow and change. They need to learn something, and to have a goals they are reaching for—internal to make themselves better or happier, and external to make their outer, physical lives better. And sadly, it is frequently this movement toward growth that gets forgotten in the jumble of the story, the conflict, the dialogue, and the setting.
We work so hard to make our stories realistic and engaging. To make the reader want to turn those pages, but a great way to do that is to remember those characters. In every single scene you write your characters need to be moving toward or away from their goals and they need to be given the opportunity to move toward or away from their ultimate development.
Because I’m a plotter, before I even begin to write, I figure out what my characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts are. I decide how my characters need to grow and the way they are going to develop. And then I need to take that information and incorporate it into every single scene I write. Yes, every scene needs to either move my character toward his growth or away from it. Every scene needs to impact my protagonist in some way, if it doesn’t the scene isn’t pulling its weight in the story and I’ll need to consider whether it should even be in the book or not.
A book is merely a puzzle with so many moving parts, but you need to make sure that all the gears are there or it just won’t work in the end.