Character development is a difficulty that most writers face, if not all. It is a flaw readers look out for, and the fear of creating a lamented ‘Mary Sue’ can make a writer’s struggle significantly worse.
Personally, I find it a particular weakness in my own writing. Plot and action seem to come naturally to me, whereas the creation of realistic, engaging characters is something at which I have to continually work. For my writing partner, S.E. Berrow, the exact opposite problem is true: characters appear almost fully formed in her head, but developing a compelling plot is not as easy. I like to think this is why we work well as writing partners; we are the Yin and Yang of common author struggles. We share our tricks of the trade, offer advice, and challenge each other to do better.
One such trick I find useful when developing characters is a theatre practice called ‘Hot Seating’. In the theatre, this device is used to ‘get inside the head’ of the character you’ll be portraying: you sit in the centre of your company, and they fire quick questions at you that you must answer as your character, as quickly as possible. This allows an ‘instinctive’ feel for the character to bloom. For obvious reasons, this practice is helpful when getting to know new characters in writing. Continue reading