Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #010.

Is he actively trying to move?

Although many characters may have lofty dreams of living somewhere other than where they currently do, not all characters have the motivation or the circumstances to see their dreams through to fulfillment. In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo takes clear, deliberate actions to achieve his goal of leaving the Shire behind and going on another adventure. In The Office, Jim Halpert refuses to move, even when the circumstances are perfect for him to do so, because he doesn’t want to leave Pam. However, when she rejects him, he immediately accepts the new job opportunity he’s been offered and moves to Stamford.

Where does he go to school?

The location of the building in which a character receives his education, as well as its state as either a public or a private school, can have incredible social implications for the character, as well as an effect on what his future prospects might be. In Spider-Man, the three main characters, Peter, Harry, and MJ, as well as secondary characters like Flash Thompson, all attend a public school called Midtown High.

What grade is he in?

The grade a character is in depends primarily on his age, but can also be affected, for better or worse, by the level of his academic success. Students who perform well in school can potentially be moved to a higher grade, while those who fail too many classes may be forced to repeat the same year of school over again. In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper is a genius who was able to graduate from high school and begin attending college at the age of eleven.

How far is the school from his home?

The distance that a student has to travel to reach his school can affect the story in many different ways. Perhaps he usually walks to school, but conditions are unfavorable. Perhaps he usually gets a ride to school from a family member, but they are unable to take him, leaving him stranded. Perhaps the journey from his house to his school leaves him susceptible to kidnapping or bullying. In Super 8, the school that the main characters attend is relatively close by, yet at one point, they must hitch a ride from someone to get there in an emergency because the city is being evacuated and they’re much farther away from the school than usual.

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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