Developing a Character

Let’s start with a made up name.  How about Sally?  Picture Sally in your mind.  The Sally that I just pictured is eight years old.  She has sand colored short straight hair, sparkling blue eyes, and a smile that embodies her upbeat attitude.   She’s wearing a top that she asked her parents to buy for her when they visited the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.  It is light blue and has silk screened images of the Aquarium’s sea otters.   She has her running shoes on today because one of her friends just called and he asked her to meet him at the park to play softball.  As she rode her bike to the park she was reviewing what her older brother had told her about batting.  When she arrived at the park she was immediately greeted by her best friends from school.

otters, Monterey Bay Aquarium, blog

Now that we know what she looks like, what some of her interests are, and that she has many friends we need to have situation arise that further  expresses her character and allows the reader to learn more about her.  Consider the following two paragraphs:

A)  Sally greeted her friends and then stood patiently, while her friend Thomas told her about his trip to the Seattle Aquarium.  Conversations with Thomas always took patience because he stuttered a lot.  Thomas considered Sally his best friend because she liked sea creatures like he did and she always waited patiently while he talked to her.  She was the only one in their circle who always took time for his difficult speech.

B)   Sally greeted her friends and then avoided talking to Thomas, who wanted to tell her about his trip to the Seattle Aquarium. Conversations with Thomas always took patience because he stuttered a lot.  He desperately wanted to be Sally’s friend because they both liked sea creatures.  Of the friends in their circle, Sally had the least patience when he tried to talk to her.

Both paragraphs give us insight into Sally’s character.  The above paragraphs might lead to narratives that force them to go on an adventure as a team.  If I used paragraph A, I would tell a story about how Sally learns about stuttering and helps Thomas get over his speech impediment while they are on their adventure.  If I used paragraph B, I would tell a story about Sally having to develop patience and learn to become a compassionate person while they struggled to complete their adventure.

Which story would you like to complete?  Try writing two more paragraphs for each and then go back and see if you are being true to Sally’s A or B character.  How do you decide what your character’s personality is going to be?

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

I originally wrote this as a guest post for Darlene’s Book Nook.

I took the photo at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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Richard Alan

Richard began writing while living in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Carolynn. This summer they moved to Dallas, Texas. They are the proud parents of three wonderful adult sons.

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