Please welcome Book Country member Rachel Anne Marks back to the blog! Rachel’s been a wonderful force of positivity and wisdom here on Book Country for going on three and a half years. We were absolutely thrilled when Rachel announced that Skyscape had picked her up for a 2-book deal. Her young adult debut, DARKNESS BRUTAL, is on sale now. Rachel stopped by the blog this morning to share insights on the incredible character development that keeps her readers coming back for more.
When we open a book, we begin a journey, and there are several things that help us decide if we’ll keep going. We ask ourselves if we want to hang out in the world of the book, if the questions raised seem interesting, but we also want to follow the lead subject on their journey. As a reader, this is one of my biggest questions when I start reading a novel: do I connect with the main character?
And as a writer, it’s even more important. In order to show a story through the eyes of another, we need to have a strong link to their motives, fears, and conflicts. We need to be almost literally in their shoes if we want the reader to feel that way too.
I believe the best avenue to relay a character is through voice. The voice is the biggest tool in an author’s toolbox. It’s like the sledge hammer. We always think of action or some sort of plot event this way, but really, the main reason you feel those events so strongly—a kiss or a fist—is because the writer’s developed the voice, and drawn us in already.
One of my best writing teachers always said, “Readers ask the question: why do I care?” The way to make the reader care is to give them someone to care about. That’s character development. Give them a character to root for, to cry with, and to bleed with. Give them an experience from another human being’s perspective that they can fully embrace.
Character Development Writing Exercises to Try:
- Extensive people-watching and listening. (Good character writers are nosy).
- Journaling from the POV of the character about a pivotal day in the backstory, or just the weather. (Good character writers channel.)
- Act out a scene in your living room that you wrote. (Good character writers are also actors.)
- Find images of your character and keep them visible while you’re creating him or her. (Good character writers are visual.)
In short, good character writers aren’t afraid to be a little crazy. As you sink into your character’s head and begin the writer’s journey with him or her, remember: you’re the first to encounter them. What you relay to the reader in action, voice, and motive could dictate whether the pages will keep turning or if the book will be left sad and lonely on the bedside table.
What are some of your favorite literary characters and why? What made them stick with you? What made them seem so real? Discuss character development here.
Rachel A. Marks is an author, professional artist, cancer survivor, mother of four, and wife. Here she is with author Terry Brooks at Comic-Con 2015. She’s the winner of the 2011 Codex Novel Contest. Her young adult novel DARKNESS BRUTAL is out now from Amazon Skyscape. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachelAnneMarks and connect with her on Book Country. To learn more, visit her website, rachelannemarks.com.