Way back in 2015, we gave ourselves the objective of developing our writing skills over the summer. We'd spent four years building the Triskele brand, learning about marketing and publishing, so it was time to go back to basics.And that meant writing.
We tried a bunch of exercises just to flex our creative muscles. Many were directly applicable to our WIP, such a Character, Voice, Point of View, Story Structure and Descriptive Prose.
But that was four years ago, and since then some of us have developed a series.
Gillian Hamer, JJ Marsh and JD Smith have all followed the same key characters over several books with every intention of continuing.
So we spent some time looking at the best way to keep those characters fresh and how to ensure they change and grow, rather than stagnate.
1. What legacy of experiences mark your character’s personality and preferences now? Not just past trauma, but why is s/he allergic to seafood, soppy about butterflies, nervous of men in hats? Define a least one actual experience which has marked her/him. Then decide on something which has affected your MC vicariously (ie not something experienced directly – seen on TV, overheard, urban legend).
2. What stages of development does his/her personality undergo? How does that affect relationships with other familiar characters? What are the key turning points in each book?
3. When is the reader surprised by his/her actions? When does the reader have an ‘of course s/he would do that’. Even better, when does the reader have a moment of ‘I should have known!’ regarding character development?
4. Think of one past action scene which demonstrates your character’s personality (for better or worse). Now picture your character two/three books later – how would that behaviour change in those circumstances?
5. How other characters see your MC doesn't always reflect their true personality. That's logical - none of us is consistent or 100% honest. Look at your character from the outside. On the left hand side of a piece of paper, write down five of your character’s key values. What are the things they hold dear? Think conceptually, eg, truth, loyalty, persistence, kindness, etc
Now on the right, write down how those characteristics could be perceived by someone who hates your character. Eg, truth can be seen as rudeness, loyalty as blind devotion, persistence as pig-headedness, kindness as being a sap, etc
For more detail on how each author approaches characterisation over a series, see this article.