For me, plot and character are interwoven like the DNA strands in a Double Helix. I map out character arcs and plot arcs, but end up looking at them together more than separately because the story has to work as a whole.
That said, here are few things I do to develop character:
1. I write my MCs life story up until the book starts. This helps me to develop his voice for the actual novel. Nothing beats voice when it comes to story-telling. Your character can be doing something as boring as changing a light-bulb if he’s got a great voice.
2. In the first draft I ask questions like this continually: What does my character want? What does my character need? What are his internal conflicts?
3. And all throughout the revision process I keep asking myself: What is my character feeling right now? If I know his back story, I can usually get in touch with what he is going through. Often those feelings make it into the story as thoughts, actions or gestures. And these are the things that show who he is and what he is struggling with.
In one of my manuscripts, I totally changed who the MC was during a revision. I gave him a completely different back story even though in the book he still had to get from Point A to Point B.
I made him both more sympathetic and larger-than-life in a good way. Hopefully he does things that you wish you’d done if you were in his situation but you’d have to be pretty brave to try. At the same time he battles with guilt, anger, lack of self-worth, and helplessness. I think he’s a better fit for the story I’m telling.
So, my final thought on writing compelling characters: Have them take risks. And to have them take risks, put them in risky situations.
Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.