Help:Character Development

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The Character Development Guide will provide you with tips to help you write better characters and to integrate those characters more naturally into the Omniverse Nexus.

Appearance

If your character isn't human, make sure to understand how members of their species appear before you describe them. Even if you want your character to look atypical for their species, it makes sense to understand what typical members of their species look like. Also, when giving descriptions, try to focus on the things which are important and relevant. Don't go overboard with details.

Personality

Some people find it easy to give characters interesting personalities, others find it more challenging. That's fine - everyone writes differently, and everyone struggles with different things. Engaging characters aren't absolutely necessary for good writing. Isaac Asimov is often criticized for writing flat, one-note characters, and he's considered one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. If you're more interested in writing character-lite, idea-driven works like he did, then don't let this guide stop you.

However, bear in mind that you're writing for people, and people like reading about other people. Besides, if you can come up with a character you really love, then writing the story will be a lot more fun. It might even be easier - sometimes, a really good character can write the story themselves if you let them do what they want. Stephen King has described how when he writes, instead of making an outline, he prefers to come up with a character, put them in a situation and merely watch what happens next.

If you have trouble coming up with character personalities, here are a few helpful tips.

Draw from real life

You probably know at least a few interesting people in your life, if you stop to think about it. You might be able to use those people as inspiration for characters in your story. Alex Hirsch did this while writing Gravity Falls, using his sister, his grandfather and a friend from college as the inspiration for the characters of Mabel Pines, Grunkle Stan and Soos Ramirez, respectively. The upside of this is that your characters will probably feel far more unique and real than ones based on other characters or on archetypes. Remember, you don't have to make your character a one-to-one match for the person who inspired them. In fact, it'd likely be better if you didn't do that, for the sake of originality and because you don't want to annoy the person you based the character on.

Look to yourself for inspiration

Ultimately, every character you write will be a reflection of yourself. While you should try not to write characters who are exact replicas of yourself, you should try to find aspects of a character that you can identify with. This will make it easier for you to imagine yourself in a character's shoes. Once again, you don't need your characters to be going through the exact same things you're going through to find a parallel to your own experiences. Say you're writing about a person in the Galactic Crucibles setting whose world is decimated by Harbingers. Perhaps you've felt, at some point in your life, like your world has been shattered, by a personal accident, a loss of a loved one, a failed test, etc. - if you write the character's reaction to be similar to your own, you might be able to better understand what they're going through. Obviously, that's a fairly extreme example, but hopefully you get the idea.

Consider what characters you like to read about

The characters you're going to have the most fun writing for are almost certainly going to be the ones you have the most fun reading about. For example, if you read a lot of spy fiction, you're going to enjoy writing stories about spies. Think about the characters you really love. Why do you love them? What about those specific characters or character types makes you want to read about them? Then, try to come up with a character like that. Again, try to be original. If you're writing about spies, don't make a direct copy of James Bond who happens to live in Polvora and prefers coffee to martinis. Instead, figure out what about James Bond you like (his coolness under pressure? His refined tastes? His cool gadgets?) and make a character who embodies those things with a distinct spin - for instance, a rich gentleman with an appreciation for the finer things in life who has a double life as an assassin-for-hire.

Think about where they came from

Everyone has a backstory. We're all shaped by events in our past, and those things help define who we are in the present. While writing your character, think about where they came from and how that influences their personality. For instance, say your character was raised in poverty on a remote planet. They might react differently to a bustling mall on Domum Regimen than a Karalian nobleman whose used to luxury. Don't fall into the trap of giving your characters too much backstory, especially minor supporting characters. If you spend your time making sure absolutely everyone has a rich, detailed history, you'll never get around to writing your story!

Use archetypes

Character archetypes exist for a reason - they're a very useful way to categorize characters. Joseph Campbell identifies eight main character archetypes - the Hero, the Mentor, the Ally, the Herald, the Trickster, the Shapeshifter, the Guardian and the Shadow. Carl Jung identifies twelve of them - the Innocent, the Orphan, the Hero, the Caregiver, the Explorer, the Rebel, the Lover, the Creator, the Jester, the Sage, the Magician and the Ruler. Archetypes may seem limiting, but they can be very handy as tools. Using archetypes as a basis can give you a better idea of what will and won't work for your character and a better idea of what you want to do with them. If you know that your character is a Sage, for example, then you know their struggles will probably relate to the attaining or acquisition of knowledge, and you can build their story around that. There are many different lists of archetypes, and no one is fundamentally correct. If you want to use archetypes in your story, find a list that works for you. Furthermore, make sure you don't try to fit your character rigidly into one archetype. Characters can occupy more than one archetype, or they might not fit neatly into any one category.

Integration

If you want to write a story in a closed-off setting, then you probably won't need to worry about this, but the Omniverse Nexus being a collaborative project, you may want to collaborate. If you want your character to interact with the larger world or with other characters, then you need to make sure your character fits. Doing some research into your setting might help you get a better idea of what sort of world your character inhabits. If your character is a member of a team, then make sure they are balanced in terms of abilities and weaknesses. Don't make your character work with people who are way weaker or way stronger than they are, or they'll either completely overpower the other characters or hold them back.