I’ve had a great time getting to know the characters in my SF novel. A plethora of minor characters run around in my story, but I have three main ones:
- Bandonn FarPacer-Technology genius; while growing up, forced to fight a war on his home planet; escaped the war, and wants to be an agent for the Consortium to help disadvantaged cultures. Oh, and he’s allergic to sex.
- Durso RascaLion-Lothario; lives day-by-day; doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Has a quick temper, but his best friend, Bandonn, usually keeps him in check.
- Edom CarpenTrail-Priestess for the Siron; grew up lonely; rich parents ignored her; after a life of wicked living, she finds fulfillment in the spiritual and helping others.
Okay, that’s just the starting point for these three. They are all from the same home planet, but happen to work on the same luxurious galactic liner, a space ship on which passengers vacation.
I’m going to ignore plot points to avoid spoilers, and instead mention a few things I learned in character development. First, in early drafts, there wasn’t enough conflict between my three main characters.
The temptation was to have their friendships be too perfect.
Yeah, they’re friends, but even the best of friends have ups and downs. So, I threw a few wrenches into their friendships with each other. Bandonn, who’s allergic to sex, resents Durso’s constant womanizing; Durso gets sick of Edom’s proselytizing about the Siron and accuses her of being a rich ‘princess’; Edom finds herself jealous of Bandonn when he gets something she thinks she deserves. There’s more, but you get the idea.
Secondly, using subtext made my characters more interesting. Instead of coming out and naming and emotion, I would hint at it with actions and dialogue.
The temptation was to explain too much because I was afraid the reader wouldn’t ‘get it.’
Readers are smarter than you think. They don’t want to be insulted; they want to be kept on their toes. Instead of saying, “Edom was jealous of Bandonn.” I would show the unspoken emotions beneath the surface:
Bandonn woke up. The infirmary?
He saw Edom standing beside the bed. “Are we back on the ship?”
“Yes. You’re fine.”
He blinked a few times. The memories of what happened on Figuola sharpened. “Are you okay? Durso?”
He saw his weaveglove sitting on the dresser next to the bed. He reached out. “Can you get my …”
She picked up his weaveglove and tossed it onto the top of the bed next to his leg.
He looked at her and tilted his head. “Are you okay?”
Writing characters this way so much more fun.
Thirdly, in my early drafts, I concentrated so much on Bandonn, the main protagonist. He had goals, wants and needs.
The temptation was to not give the other major characters goals, wants and needs.
Durso really lacked any purpose in the story except to be a foil for Bandonn’s problems. After rewriting, Durso gained more specific goals, wants and needs.
So, don’t give in to the temptations. Not only will your characters be more interesting, they will be more interesting to write.
Here are some recent articles on developing characters in your fiction:
- Writing Tips: Creating Believable Characters
- Stephen King’s 6 Tips for Character Description
- How to Take Advantage of Your 4 Most Important Characters
- Inside-Out Characters