Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More On Character Development

For those who missed my Monday post, I've started a series of posts on character development. I'm doing an online workshop which you can find here. There's been some really good info that's helping me get inside my protag's and antag's heads.

We recently discussed the Triangle of Personality Traits. This refers to the three sides of your character:

                                       TRAIT ** NEED ** FLAW


Example:  If your character's trait is adventurous, their need may be change, but the flaw is that your character is unreliable.


Make sense? Here's another one:


Example:  If the trait is loyalty, the need may be trust, and the flaw is that your character is gullible.  


It's important to know the need that drives your character, and the flaw that brings them to their darkest moment. Try brainstorming and writing these down for your main characters. It's not as easy as it may seem, unless you already know your character very well. For me, starting out a fresh new story, I had to really dig deep, but man, what a difference it's making and helping to mold my plot.

I know some writers like to just write by the seat of their pants and get to know their characters as they go. But for me, I've found I do much better knowing them before I start writing the first draft, which saves a huge headache with revisions.

Know what your character's flaw is. This flaw will be their blind spot, and the character's strongest defenses will be built around this same blind spot. What appears to be the main character's strongest trait is actually a cover for their weakest one. Most likely, your MC will be in denial of their potential blind spot and will react negatively to anyone or anything poking close to it. This denial will cause the MC to defend their blind spot (or flaw), which justifies their need.

Remember the triangle, and use it to develop all your main characters. If you don't know what the triangle of trait is for your main characters, chances are they're somewhat hollow.

BTW Weekly Spotlight will return soon. I'm knee-deep in character development for my new stories right now, and loving it. Hopefully, these posts will help you as they've helped me. Do you have anything more to add? Feel free to tell me what works (or doesn't work) for you when fleshing out your characters and breathing life into them.  

37 comments:

Melissa said...

Oh this is excellent! I think you covered it well. I know my characters really well but now I'm going to sit down and figure out their triangle!

Melissa said...

LIke...see how easy/hard it is I mean

welcome to my world of poetry said...

As my characters in my poems is mainly myself and family I think I know the pretty well.

Yvonne.

D U Okonkwo said...

Characters are important and being able to develop them is what makes them stick out in the readers mind. For a reader to know your character the author must do a good job of showing that they do. Whatever character trait a MC has, it must be intrinsic to the story line.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Need and flaw - I really used that for my character of Byron.

Rogue Mutt said...

I really hate this mechanical way of making characters. It's like those people who use RPG things to create characters. Where's the fun in that?

Catherine Stine said...

Good post. A character's flaw can also turn out to be a strength. Or one that he will need to work through, such as a fear of heights. Let's say, hefaces the challenge that to save a friend, the character must work through a fear of heights by climbing a mountain to save that friend. It's a good idea to do some freewrites before writing chapters. One writing exercise would be to have a friend interview the character.

DM said...

These are a good subject - developing characters. I love the trait need flaw. I always write up a pg on my character's personality before I write the story. Those 3 words will really help.

Angela Felsted said...

I love how you break everything down. So useful.

Lisa Potts said...

What appears to be the main character's strongest trait is actually a cover for their weakest one.

Love, love, love this! Not only do I try to figure this out for my MC, but I also happen to do it to people I know in real life. I've always been an over-analyzer. Some of my friends find it annoying. I can't imagine why.
; )

Sophia Richardson said...

We're always told to know our character's strengths, weaknesses and desires but I've never heard of and love the idea of how they relate to each other in this triangle. Thanks for sharing.
- Sophia.

Pk Hrezo said...

Me too... totally analyze my friends' personalities!
I always interview my characters before writing the first draft too.

RogueMutt, I love ya cuz your resistant to structure. That's totally me in everything I do EXCEPT writing. I'm a total plotter and have to design everything before writing it. It's how my writing mind works.

kmckendry said...

Wow I guess I never thought of it that way. I will keep the triangle in mind. Thanks.

A. Lockwood said...

This is great info!

Jules said...

Great post. A character must have a yin and a yang, it makes things rounded. Besides nobody wants to be square :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Melissa said...

Great post! I've never heard of the triangle of personality traits. I'll go back and see if my characters fit this. Thanks for sharing this info!

Shari said...

I've heard of goal, motivation and conflict, but I haven't heard of approaching character development like this. I like it! Thanks for sharing.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, PK,

Excellent post! I am one of the "wing it" kind of writers. so this is an interesting thought... Thanks.

Michael

Margo Benson said...

Great post, thank you! I'm not a seat of the pants writer and like to plot my outlines and characters fully. I find I can then flow more easily through the chapters.

This triangle will be very helpful - I also ask my characters their secrets, their collections, their make-up routine (if appropriate) etc to wholly round the personalities.

E.J. Wesley said...

This made sense to my small mind, so I know it's great advice! :0) Thanks for sharing this!

EJ

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This is an awesome post. I knew about having all three, but never thought as them as a triangle before or considered the blind spot.

I prefer to have a concept then figure out my major players before I outline the book. Knowing my characters inside and out helps shape the story.

Christine Tyler said...

Great way to break it down! Love the three simple focuses: trait, need, flaw. Very well organized.

JEFritz said...

An excellent post! I hate it when characters have traits like bravery, but are "afraid of closeness." Those don't go together. The triangle shows how they should be related and how they make the character.

LTM said...

I very much like this formula. I've done it both ways--getting to know them as I go, and knowing them well from the start. The second way's easier! :D <3

Mary Vaughn said...

I'm getting a lot out of this series. This formula in particular is giving me a DUH! moment.
Thanks

Florence said...

Another good post, PK.
Disecting characterizations can be like plots and sub plots. One is needed to support or build up the other. If you have multiple plots, characterizations which also follow a ying,yang, ying cadence is like listening to great music. Each nuance, like each instrument ... each plot and character flaw/and or trait, adds to the beauty and complexity of the story.

Carrie said...

This is so helpful! I have such a hard time letting my characters face the consequences of their flaws...I need to get tough.

Jen said...

What a great post! I'm going to check out the whole series now.

When it comes to knowing my characters, I like to fill in free personally quizzes I find on the internet! I call it research, but it's probably just another form of procrastination...

taio said...

superb

Jeigh said...

This is a great idea. It makes a lot of sense to me.

T C Mckee said...

Great idea. I wrote by the seat of my pants in the beginning. This would have helped so much. Revisions have been slow because of not knowing my characters enough. I think I could have been finished a long time ago if I had done something like this. Yer so smart.

Elle Strauss said...

This is great stuff! I always have a hard time trying to figure out character and I'm sure this will help.

shelly said...

Found this very helpful but certain characters still run wild. OMG

Sara McClung ♥ said...

So interesting... Character development is one of my absolute fave things--and I've never looked at it this way, in so many words.

*bookmarks post*

Katie S. Taylor said...

Love this post. For me, one of the best parts of writing is getting to know the characters. 90% of it I explore before the story, and the rest, I discover along the way. Again, great post!

Katie S. Taylor

Rachael Harrie said...

Wow, that's a fantastic thing to remember during character development. In the past I've always gotten to know my characters as I wrote, but am doing a lot more development these days, which is showing results, I think (hope!) :) Consider yourself bookmarked ;)

Hugs,

Rach

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Excellent post! I had never really thought of it as a triangle, but will be digging in deep for my new characters! ;)