Effective Character Development

Stacy Johnson
3 min readMar 19, 2023

Things I learned along the way

I discovered three things about effective character development, beginning with it’s not impossible.

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

When I started my book project, I became bogged down with how the characters should interact. At first glance, they appeared to be people who would not interact with each other. Imagine a middle school dance filled with students standing against the gym walls as the music blares. Everyone wants to dance but is afraid to make the first move–beautiful wallflowers, motionless and stuck in time. The character running from the gym crying or feeling overwhelmed is the protagonist. There are lots of questions to answer about her behavior. Is she rushing to the bathroom? Does she suffer from social anxiety, or is the guy she wants to dance with approaching her, and she runs away instead of taking the opportunity to dance? She has room for growth and change or triumph and self-discovery. In other words, she possesses the critical components for making a character memorable, likable, and someone the reader will likely support. Her story begins with a conflict. The fun part is identifying the conflict and creating plot points to encourage the protagonist to change.

On the other hand, the antagonist is the one who is unafraid to ask anyone in the gym to dance. This brave soul requires no introduction or explanation. We have all met someone like her before, the life of the party and the girl everyone wants to be or date. She has it all figured out. The biggest question about her is whether she will partially or completely destroy the protagonist and how she will do it. As the writer, I get to decide. By doing so, I am developing my character’s personality and moving the story forward.

Planning Is Crucial

I ignored that planning is a significant part of the writing process. I had gotten to the place where all I wanted to do was write, so that’s what I did. Afterward, realizing I didn’t prepare well, I wondered if planning or writing should come first. Planning should happen first. For example, I contemplated what would be on my protagonist’s social media home page. Would her profile picture be an adorable Labradoodle or her smiling face on the 8th-grade field trip with her best friend? What main events would occur in her life? Her 13th birthday party…

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