Phase One. Character Development.
There you are all writered up and ready to take the New York Times Best Seller list by storm but still the cursor is blinking on the face of a sterile white computer page. You get the picture I’m sure. It’s the common cold that’s common only to writers called writer’s block.
Stay calm and read on because, unlike the actual common cold there is a cure for writer’s block.
This is where we separate the writers from the wannabe’s because the writers will keep on reading while the rest will shut the Word program and the page and never write much, if anything at all. It’s sad but it’s true. Especially when you consider all of the unique stories that have fallen by the wayside due to BPS ever since writing was invented.
That is indeed tragic. Happily, those who are still living have a second chance now to tell their own stories and the stories of those who have gone before them with their stories as yet untold.
Whether you write or not your story can be told be it fiction or fact. Further there is no reason why BPS should even exist. If you are planning on writing a novel or anything for public consumption the last thing you should be doing is staring at anything but text.
Whether it’s your own writing or someone else’s, you should either be spending the time you allot to writing, reading, or else you should be writing something related to your story. Directly or indirectly, there is always work to be done.
Straight to the point. You don’t have a story or you don’t have any character’s or some combination thereof so we are going to start with the best approach. As you will see, once you begin to build characters, they lend themselves to their own adventures through your imagination.
The first step has to be the development of your main character and to take it to its finest form you have to practically write their birth certificate and if that helps your muse then there are any number of print shops online who will be only too happy to print one for you at a reasonable price.
Whether your main character(s),(MC) are man, woman, beast, or other; what you write on that first blank page that has daunted your every effort is a name.
Any name will do. You have no right to your own name so you can even use your Mother-in-Law’s name. Of course there are consequences attached to using the name of someone you know that closely. If you can’t think of a good name open a book or other publication and look for a good one you can use or one you can adapt.
Once the MC has a name you fill in the blanks yourself as far as their place of birth , parents names and backgrounds if applicable. Or whatever explains any other means of the MC attaining their present form. Obviously they did not simply pop into existence. If they did they still had to originate somehow. Consider the backstory of The Silver Surfer before he was sent to Earth and meets the Fantastic Four. The cast of characters that clash in this one comic book alone have a vast amount of backstory behind them which is what makes the story so dynamic.
Other prime examples would be Star Wars The Force Awakens, and the final episodes of Game Of Thrones. We all know death never loses a war. If the entire series came down to one single movie-length episode the end would not be nearly as meaningful to so many. Not without the depth of the storyline behind each character who has survived to this point. The death of the dragon and its being claimed by death and used to destroy the ice wall is exceptionally poignant because you know the extent of humanistic sacrifices and the hopes of humanity that fell with it. You cringed inwardly when the ice wall came down and you know it.
You know and feel the loss of the men who by choice lived and died just to watch and defend it to the death if called upon to do so. Even the conscripts had a choice not to serve the Knight’s Watch. In a compact form it would have little meaning either way. Nobody can say that about Game of Thrones because of the depth the characters were able to present to you the viewer. The process of character development and one’s development as an artist is not much different for you the writer. The creator of people, architect of civilizations, and destroyer of worlds.
If the main character will be in a recurring role writing a full biography for their parents will add depth to the MC. A depth that will come through you in your writing. Even if it is going to be a short life for your MC, you must be able to write their full biography. It should be approximately two single spaced pages. It should be no less either but it can be anything or anybody. How were they raised and how/why do they think like they do? What do they stand for, what do they believe in and why? What drives their philosophy? What makes them happy, sad, or angry enough to fight or even kill?
Are they good, evil, or both, and why? Where do they work? How did they get the job, their position? Who is their boss, and how do they get along? What were their past relationships? Do they have any children? If so, who are they? Where are they? What brought them to this point and what drives them on through the adversity every MC faces.
All of these things and more should go into the development of a main character. You don’t even have to write all of the nuances down as long as you already know the answers to those questions yourself.
You should write a biography for every secondary character as well if not to a lesser degree. If the individual writer wishes, they can write a full biography for every character. By doing this you will build a stable of unique characters who might find themselves in an adventure of their own one day.
You will learn as you do this how to combine the traits of one person to another. Traits that you have observed in friends, family, and from Television, radio, and printed characters you have been exposed to. It will also give you a deeper insight into what makes some people tick as you come to understand the way every aspect of one’s environment and upbringing affects how they interact with their own lives. Through them you not only learn as a writer but grow also as a human being.
There is not a definite established form for your own specific method of developing a character beyond the basic form of the biography. How far to take it is up to you, the creator. You know that you have done it correctly the first time you have to kill a MC. If you cannot do at least this much then no, you are probably not cut out for writing fiction of any kind. There are still a million other opportunities for you writing non-fiction if you choose.
If however you can do this and killing that MC breaks your heart then you are well on your way to the top.
If you try to write non-fiction and you still suffer from BPS then perhaps you are more cut out to be an editor, agent, or publisher which are more academic in nature. You can even be a copywriter, journalist, promoter, bookseller, or…?
Or, if you are the curious and adventurous type you can learn about the functions of all of these writing disciplines. What you will take away from this education is a greater depth to your own character and a greater understanding of what you face. Not from writing that Great American Novel, but from publishing it with any measure of success. But believe me, you can do this.
Never forget that. Never let anyone dissuade you from writing because practice does make perfect. The more you write the easier it gets.
Never forget too that writing is a discipline and discipline is what it takes because writing is anything but easy, and in writing there is no acceptable substitute for hard work.
You will never get a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature by skipping most of the classes. You might get a feel for the subject but you will never fully understand it or be able to apply what you learned effectively. If becoming a University English Literature Professor is your life’s ambition then you are screwed and there are no two ways about it.
The same principle applies to publishing that Great American Novel locked up inside of you. If you are not willing to put the work in to make your book a success just remember there are no excuses for failure when the buck is in your own pocket.
Poverty is no excuse either. A homeless person with a free Obama smartphone has the capacity to publish their own novel using the free WIFI available in any public library or other source.
I have no phone service, and yet I have WordPress on my phone. I can write a blog on it or even create a new website if I wish to. I can use the voice to text feature in my email to write my thoughts for a storyline or what have you into. I can dictate a story if I’m at an event, on the road, or sitting in a doctor’s office. You have the means and the time to write, and study writing in your hand most of the time anyway, so you might as well put it to good use.
You should be doing something productive with your time instead of staring at a blank page and wasting an opportunity to succeed by writing on social media about how hard writing is. Write all of that angst and self-doubt down in a letter, email it to yourself save it in a time capsule file, and open it in 3 years when you’re a seasoned veteran. I guarantee you will feel silly reading it.
Whether you think it’s right or wrong, write. The only mistake you can make as a writer is to not write. Stay tuned for the next therapeutic BPS treatment. Coming soon to a website near you.
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