Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #012.

Has he ever been expelled? If so, why?

If a student causes trouble to the point where detentions and suspensions are no longer sufficient punishments, the next step that the school may choose to take is to expel the student. Even for non-troublemakers, expulsion may be an indicator that a character has difficulty fitting in with fellow students or conforming to the school and its rules. In Spider-Man, Harry Osborn was said to have been kicked out of every private school his father sent him to due to his grades not meeting the minimum standards that they required.

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Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #011.

Does he put effort into his schoolwork?

Some students limit themselves to the barest minimum amount of effort that will allow them to pass their classes. Others try less, not caring even if they fail every assignment. Still others put an incredible amount of effort in their schoolwork, spending many sleepless nights finishing homework, and always giving 100% in class. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione Granger enjoys school so much that she requests a time-travel device so that she can take twice as many classes as normal. Ron Weasley, on the other hand, just barely manages to get by in the classes he has.

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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.

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Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #009.

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.

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Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #008.

What is the condition of the inside of his home?

The condition of the inside of a character’s home can reveal deep aspects of a character’s personality. Perhaps he’s organized and likes to have everything in its place. Perhaps he’s obsessive, freaking out if a single item is knocked out of line. Or perhaps he is lazy, having little to no desire to clean and maintain his home. In The Big Bang Theory, Leonard and Sheldon live in a state of organized chaos, while Penny’s apartment is nothing short of pure, messy disorganization. In the Iron Man series, Tony Stark is very obsessive about having everything in his house organized just right, even going as far as to make a big deal over the location of a giant stuffed rabbit.

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Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #007.

Does his location affect the way others see him? If so, why?

Deep prejudices can develop based on where a person or group may live. Characters may begin to feel, and influence others into feeling, that a person’s location is representative of his social standing, his intelligence, or his capacity to succeed in a given venture. In Snowpiercer, an extreme class division develops between the various train cars and the individuals living within them. In Total Recall (2012), The United Federation of Britain looks down on the citizens of the Colony, considering them to be inferior, and using them as little more than slave labor for their own ventures.

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Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #006.

Does he enjoy getting older, or does he dread it?

Some characters welcome the passage of time with open arms, as it comes with newfound freedom and abilities. Others dread old age. In The Bucket List, Edward Cole writes a list of activities that he wants to participate in before he dies, and soon engages in a race against the clock to check them all off before his lung cancer takes him. In Interview with a Vampire, Claudia hates the fact that she’s stuck in the eternal form of a young girl, wishing instead that she could mature and become a grown woman.

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Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #005.

What do others do to celebrate his birthday?

What others choose to do on a character’s birthday can be just as influential to the plot of the story as the choices of the character himself. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf’s shipmates in an alternate reality choose to forgo Worf’s preferences, throwing him a surprise party in spite of his dislike for such occasions. In Sixteen Candles, Samantha eagerly looks forward to receiving a surprise party for her birthday, but her family ends up forgetting all about it, and she has to occupy her time with other activities. In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, neither Max Dillon’s mother nor his boss remember his birthday, and because of that, he is forced to work overtime and suffers a tragic accident, transforming into the super-powered Electro.

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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.

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Developing Your Character

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #003.

Does he have any nicknames?

Not every character is simply known by his name or alias (established in previous issues). Some go by nicknames, which are either terms of endearment, or abbreviated forms of their original names. In the Star Wars franchise, Han, and then, by extension, everyone else, addresses his copilot as Chewie because it’s shorter and easier to say than Chewbacca. In Ready Player One, Aech refers to Parzival as Z instead of using his gamer tag whenever he wants to address him.

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