I think of Dillon Macgregor when I think of good characters I’ve written. He isn’t the only one, but he is one of my most memorable ones. His story takes place in the second and third books in the Hearts of Darkness series, but he also appears in the first book. I knew him well by the time I began writing his story, and the intriguing aspects from his past developed him into the man he became. Knowing him well didn’t mean the reader immediately cared for him. No. The relationship with the reader grew as Dillon developed from the helpful bystander he was in book one to the wounded hero he became in book two, and then into the leader and ultimate hero he grew into in book three.
The plot drove the story, but his character devloped because of plot. Things happened to him and how he reacted to those things introduced us to the man he became. Every relationship he had with other characters in the series also exposed us to another side of his character. So when working on character development, remember trials and tribulations are what show the reader the inner soul of character. Dillon made mistakes. He was an imperfect hero…someone us mere mortals can identify with , and yet his character was bigger than life because of choices he made, sacrifices he made.
Does the heroine break down and cry at every confrontation, or does she eventually grow a back bone and stand up for herself? That’s character development. That is character arc. When you see the character change and grow as a result of circumstances they confront while the story moves forward, it makes the reader curious to see the next conflict and anticipate how the character resolves that conflict. It makes us care about what happens to the characters and care about reading the next book.
Make your characters, good or bad, weak or stong, but make them real. The bad guy with at least one positive quality is a better bad guy for it. The good guy with a fatal flaw is challenged to be good despite his one short coming. The weak child can use good sense to get out of a fix. Take their strengths and use it in their favor to overcome their weakness.