Characters are the heart of all great stories. Like a conveyor belt, they are the catalyst that carries us through the story. Weak characters are only able to bring us a few feet past the threshold. Where as – the strongest characters are able to build relationships that last for a life – long bonds that can even turn into legends… sometimes more.
There is no secret ingredient or magical spell to conjure them up. And they do not appear out of thin air. Writers or creators bring them to life. Whether they are talking animals or 17th century pioneers, believable characters are ground to some kind of reality. A reality that is true to the world from which they come. They have to be real!
No one likes a phony. Imagine that you’re at a office party and a stranger comes up to you jabbering on and on about climbing Kilimanjaro. How would you react? It really depends doesn’t it? Does he look the part? Is he strong enough? Is he too old or too young? Is his skin weathered or as smooth as a baby? Can he explain why he is now working in a dead-end job instead of living a life of adventure? Whether you believe his story or not depends on your perception of “reality”.
A critical component in the process of developing a character is defining reality. Your characters need a home before they will know how to behave or how to react to whatever situations you put them in. The realities of the past are also important. The backstory explains where they came from, the reason they walk with a limp, why they feel abandoned or invincible. Both the hero (or herione) and the antagonist grew into who they are today. The more they understand themselves, the better they will be able to respond to your every command.
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