Character Development Do's & Don'ts

Don’t… open your story with a hero/heroine that pities him/herself.

Readers have to believe in your hero/heroine’s ability to forge ahead, to conquer good over evil, to find their one true love, to win the race, etc. If we don’t believe in them on page one, then there’s no need to turn to page two.

Do… allow your hero/heroine to show a deep sadness or need that must be fulfilled as a baseline for their character arc.

At the same time, reveal their strengths and talents, which tell readers the hero/heroine has the ability to change, to fight back, to grow stronger. To become the hero/heroine they are meant to be.

Good luck, Angels!
Your Editor Devil

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Let Dialogue Replace Narrative

Sometimes dialogue replaces the function of narrative in conveying action. This is less often used by authors, but in my opinion, is the playground of mature authors. The best way to explain this is through example. Here’s the “before”:

Cathy, bubbling for her share of fresh-cooked brownies, set her china plate atop the stove.
“Hey, don’t set that there,” said her grandmother. “That’s my wedding gift. And I’ll beat you raw if it shatters.”

If we let the dialogue tell us what’s happening, and keep it sounding natural and ‘in character’, the information is more engaging. This also leaves space to add more interesting narrative afterward. Here’s the “after” version:

Cathy pushed ahead of her brother for her share of fresh-cooked brownies.
“Hey, don’t set that on a hot stove,” said her grandmother. “That’s my good china. My wedding china. And I’ll beat you raw if it shatters.”

We learn from the charming grandmother that the girl is setting something inappropriate on the stove, and not just china, but grandma’s wedding china. The reveal is more impactful when the character is doing the telling because the layers of sentences better build toward her threat to beat the child. Getting yelled at (even as a reader) by the grandmother is more tension building than reading the same information through neutral narrative.

Of course, you should not use this technique constantly, or it will become cliché within your own work.

Good luck, Angels!!
Your Editor Devil