Character Dumps: Developing Believable Characters

 So you're writing. Maybe it's a short story, maybe it's the next bestseller in young adult fiction. You're very proud of it... until you read through. It's great, but there's something missing, something so important that it's affecting the entire storyline. It's your characters.

Maybe it's just one character. Even one little character, who doesn't have a big part to play in your story. But if this character isn't believable, then your novel or story could come crashing down in a big flaming disaster.

Okay, maybe not as terrible as that, but you get what I mean. Anywho, I had the same problem until I used this simple little thing which I call a character dump. It's not my idea, as it's used frequently by writers, but I'm here to give you some tips on what to include so that you can have a better understanding of your character.

Character dumps can be written from all kinds of POVS, but it's best to write them from first person. The joy of it is that it doesn't have to be perfect. Grammar doesn't matter, no one will mind if you spell something wrong, and you don't need to worry about breaking paragraphs in the right places. It's okay for you to change character's names during the writing, and you don't have to stay entirely in the character's voice- that is, try not to stray too far from the character's normal speaking voice, but it's okay if you have a medieval character use modern contractions and such.

To start off, have your character introduce themselves with the basics- name, age, and gender. If your character is an animal or some other being, include that, too. Don't just state these things bluntly, though. Remember to have the character's opinions in there.
Ex: My name is Kaeta. I'm fifteen years old, which to some people is a lady and to some is a little girl. I consider it a little girl, since I'm still learning how to be a lady.

Now describe your character's appearance and what they think of it.
Ex: I'm not going to lie- I'm pretty. Not drop-dead gorgeous, but pretty. I have fair skin and a round face, flushed cheeks dotted with freckles, accompanied by blue eyes and strawberry-blonde hair that falls to just past my shoulders. I'm not very short, but I'm definitely not tall. I guess the right word would be petite. It's not something I would brag openly about, but I'm definitely pretty.

Who are your character's friends? Give brief descriptions of the friends, what it's like to be with them, how they became friends, anything like that.
Ex: I'm lucky to have the friends I do. Before I came to the Academy, my only real friend was Siark. He's still a good friend of mine, very goofy and easy to talk to. We've known each other for as long as I can remember. His younger sister, Niaceri(or Nixi for short), was also a good friend. At the Academy, I have lots of other friends. There's Athrata, who's very smart and quiet, and Meireini, who fancies someone new every month. Hanei is sweet and artistic, while Emra is exuberant and clumsy. It's a wonder that we all get along, because we're all so different from each other.

Have your character talk about there education. Do they enjoy learning? Where did they go to school, are going, or will be going?(I'm pretty sure that sentence was grammatically incorrect, oops.) How do they feel about it?
Ex: The Academy is really called the "Academie for Gifted Young Ladies and Gentlemen". It's supposed to be for people from the ages of twelve to eighteen who are smarter than average. I don't really fit into the "smarter than average" category- in fact, I almost didn't pass the entrance exam- but I try my hardest. I really like learning, I just have trouble grasping some of the things they teach. This is no problem for Siark, who's probably some level of genius.
The Academy also doubles as a finishing school for the girls. I really enjoy this. Learning how to be proper is somehow very satisfying.

Now delve deeper into your character's emotions. Describe the biggest fear the character has, and explain why this is so frightening.
Ex: I'm really afraid of losing my friends. I had a difficult time meeting people at the Academy, and still do feel very anxious when I meet new people. The friends I have I cherish, and it's frightening to think of being without them, of being alone.

What about your character's parents? What are they called? Who are they and where are they now? How have they affected who the character is? You might also want to give some basic information on the other members of the family. This is a huge part of a character, especially because so many characters these days are orphans(seriously, why does every popular character have to be an orphan?).
Ex: When it's just us, I call my parents Mama and Papa, but when I'm at the Academy or any other formal place, I call them Mother and Father. Because I'm an only child, my parents focused a great deal of their attention on me. My father is very clever, but he's away a lot because he's a merchant. A very successful merchant, might I add. My mother is strong-willed, but with a heart of gold. I love them and miss them dearly when I'm at the Academy.

Finally, if there is anything more that has been hanging in your mind, don't hesitate to add it to your character dump.

Now that you've written this all down, you should not only have a more well-developed character, but you also will be feeling much more confident about your writing.

Thanks for reading and have a fantastic day!

 *I was very hesitant about putting my own character dump into this post. If anyone steals Kaeta, Siark, Niaceri, Athrata, Meireini, Hanei, Emra, the Academy, or anything related to them, I will hunt you down and force you to read my old Lord of the Rings fanfiction. Also I'm pretty sure stealing is wrong and you can probably go to jail and stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Good idea. I love it. I'll do it. Woohoo!!!


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