Character Development using Scrivener

There are many websites that talk about character development. Just as many provide forms you can complete when developing a fictional character.

I have used Scrivener, a software program for writers, to develop my characters. When I’m in the process of writing a story or novel, and I need a new character, I start by creating a posting a ‘3X5’ on my Scrivener ‘cork board,’ under the heading, “Characters.”

Then I give the new character  whatever attributes I want him or her to have. The first things I write are the usual demographic characteristics like age, gender, height, and a general physical description. Then I add something that makes them unique. Their uniqueness may come from how they dress, how they look, or how they act, it may be anything that allows the reader to have a clear image of this character.

Then, over time, I add information about their personalities. To that, I add information about their past. I have found some writing tip blogs that suggest that as it fleshes out a character view. It also helps me to ‘stay in character’ when I’m writing about that person. Next, I think about where they will surpass, what they can do better than others, followed, quite logically, by flaws, weaknesses, or problems they have.

Some writers have a tendency to produce ‘perfect’ characters, but that is becoming passé as writers want to make their characters sound and act real. No one knows anyone, in fact, who is perfect.

Finally, I recognize what drives them. There should be something that compels them toward their goal. For example, in a novel about a hero, the protagonist usually starts without a goal. Then, as conditions change, he or she encounters some circumstance that requires them to make a life changing decision. That is their first test. Often, they refuse the test, but are compelled, by even more dynamic changes, to accept the challenge.

Once I have a role developed I put them in difficult situations. Using the past I’ve created for them, I create how they would respond to situations.

Occasionally, upon rereading my work, I will find that I’ve let my character off the hook too easily. I go back to that scene and rewrite it to up the climax or make them work harder to save themselves. That’s what readers want. Giving a character an easy road does not make for entertaining reading.

Once I have a firm grip on my character’s attributes, then I go to Google Images and look for someone that resembles my character. When I find someone I like, sometimes I go back and adjust my descriptions to match the picture.

Once I’ve done this work, I keep my character description available on Scrivener’s binder so I can click on him or her whenever I want to view them. This is especially useful with secondary characters. I may not use them enough to remember the unique characteristics I gave them. But, if they are available with a click, I am much happier than if I have a character sheet somewhere else that I have to load. By stopping my writing to find a character description, I lose where I was. Using Scrivener, I can find them with a quick click, and go back to my writing.