Today, I’m fortunate to have a guest post by the awesome L.E. Fitzpatrick, author of The Reacher series. It’s on a topic near and dear to my heart: character development…
The Hardest Thing About Character Development
I’m a character writer, which basically means the characters always come first. Before I have a plot, a setting, even an idea, I have a character. In The Reacher series the first characters that came to me were the two brothers; John and Charlie. I knew that one of them would be serious and almost robotic, while the other would be tormented and broken. They were created in a split second while I was getting out of the shower and, at that moment, I knew who both men where, what they felt and thought, what they would do in any situation. I guess I probably know them better than I know myself.
From that concept you’d think character development would be easy right? Well it wasn’t. I had these characters at a present moment, the moment the book would be set and I had them in epic detail. What I didn’t have was a back story. Why was John so serious? Why was Charlie broken? I had the dynamic of their relationship but no idea why John supported his effectively useless brother (and at the early stages they weren’t even brothers). So it was time to scratch my head and think for a while.
The back story was like an archaeological dig. I had to take these two men and brush back the layers of dirt to reveal things about them I hadn’t discovered yet. For instance, I started to see that Charlie was broken because he blamed himself for his wife’s death. And that discovery then posed more questions. I had to peel back the story of how his family was torn apart. How he tried to be the perfect husband but failed. Why he failed at a normal life.
Each question expanded the character and for me that expansion always had to be realistic and credible, otherwise it just didn’t work. The character needs to be developed until there can be no more questions. There has to be history and reason behind everything.
It takes time and it can often go in directions you don’t want to go in. When I started The Running Game I was actually going to set it in an alternate past but these characters just didn’t fit there so the setting had to change. And as the setting changed, the world around them grew so quickly it was like it had been there all along.
But that’s the easy bit. The characters, John and Charlie, did all the work for me on the back story. What comes next is where do I take them? How can I change them? How can I fix Charlie and let him forgive himself? How can I make John more human? This is the hardest part for me because there are so many options and I have to pick the best one.
In The Running Game I got to work on fixing Charlie. He needed something to kick his life back on the straight and narrow and in the sequel, Border Lines, you get to see Charlie return to his former self. Now it’s John’s turn. Book three is going to start his journey, but it also is going to start a spiral for other characters too. The thing is life doesn’t stop, it evolves, it erodes, it heals. Plots are the same. My characters age, they make mistakes, they have successes but they never stop spiralling and as an author the biggest challenge is keeping that spiral going.
About the Author:
L E Fitzpatrick is a writer of dark adventure stories and thrillers. Under the watchful eye of her beloved rescue Staffordshire Bull Terrier, she leaps from trains and climbs down buildings, all from the front room of a tiny cottage in the middle of the Welsh countryside.
Inspired by cult film and TV, L E Fitzpatrick’s fiction is a collection of twisted worlds and realities, broken characters, and high action. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of her imagination and creating hugely entertaining stories.
THE RUNNING GAME, is the first in her paranormal thriller series, set in dystopia London under the Creativia label and now BORDER LINES is the second instalment of the Reachers series.
L.E. has actually just launched a new book, one I’d highly recommend checking out:
When the perfect job comes up, Charlie doesn’t think twice about taking it. This is the break he’s been looking for and nobody, not even the rest of his team, can persuade him otherwise.
The job means working for an old enemy and crossing the border into London. Both are risky, but Charlie has no idea how high the stakes really are. The team will have to confront their past, each other and a killer who is closer than they realize. But can they all make it out of the city alive?
“We all remember that kid in Piccadilly. That determined look he had on his face as he willed all those people to him. Just using his mind, he pulled them close then blew them all to pieces. It could be anyone. Your neighbour, your friend, your lover. Remain vigilant. Reachers are everywhere.”
Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/L-E-Fitzpatrick/e/B005DD5CE8
Connect via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lefitzpatrickbooks/
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Read her thoughts on her website: www.lefitzpatrick.com