Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #004.

What is his age?

The age of your character can have far-reaching implications in your story. It can affect his levels of knowledge and experience, his naivety, and/or his ability to perform such functions as driving, buying tobacco, alcohol, pornography, or getting into strip clubs and mature-rated movies. In Home Alone, the fact that the main character is left by himself is significant because he is only eight years old and has little to no experience in the responsibilities of adulthood. In Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda’s wisdom is substantially greater than that of any other character, since he is well over 800 years older than they are.

What is his birthday?

Knowing the date of your character’s birthday can be helpful as you organize the details of your story. If you have a coming-of-age story with the main character buying alcohol, you’ll want to make sure that they’re either old enough to do so, or have taken the steps necessary to fake their age. In Titanic, they attempt to discover the exact age of Rose Dewitt so that they can determine if her claim of being a passenger on the Titanic is feasible or not. In X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Eric Lehnsherr is 62 years old, having been born in 1930. However, the actor portraying him, Michael Fassbender, is nearly two decades younger, at 42 years of age during the release of the film.

What does he do to celebrate his birthday?

What a character chooses to do on his birthday can strongly influence many events over the course of the story. In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo organizes a party to celebrate his eleventy-first birthday, inviting hundreds of friends and relatives. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf prefers to be alone on his birthday, participating in quiet meditation rather than having a party with his crew-mates present.

The Writer’s Everything

This article, as well as many others, have been featured in previous issues of my writing journal, The Writer’s Everything, in which I, along with occasional guest contributors, provide essays, guides, encouragement, motivation, writing prompts, character bio development kits, and anything else that can help you turn your dream of becoming a writer into a reality.

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