Developing Characters – The Blind Date Approach

Characters make or break a work of fiction. No matter what perspective you are writing they have to be real, convincing, and unique to survive your entire book.

I’ve read a lot about creating characters. Not so that I can whip up bland cookie-cutter personalities but to learn how to develop them. Our readers want our characters to grow through whatever journey we take them. This does not mean the journey finishes with an end of the rainbow ending, but it does mean that they cannot be the same person at the beginning and at the end.

This is why I believe we should reveal our characters as if they are on a blind date with our audience.

I have not been on a date in about a decade. I’m happily married. But a blind date is a simple enough concept. You don’t start by telling them you are interested in getting married right now, or tomorrow at the latest. And you don’t ask them to see your parents tomorrow or move in. Relationships take time to develop.

Introduce your main characters with a few descriptive details. Not – he was old, fat and lazy. Instead – his hobby was TV, his favorite food was anything found in a gas station, and he kept a fridge next to his sofa so all of his snacks were within arm’s reach.

Okay that description may have been a bit lame but you get the point. Don’t tell the entire history of this person in three or four pages and interrupt the flow of the story. If you do it you, the author, are drawing attention to yourself with this magnificent sidebar. The introduction should feel natural and then take opportunities through the story to reveal the character through action and conversation.

I encourage you to go back and check each time you introduce a character. See how many pages and paragraphs you use to do this. Keeping it short and sweet can help keep your audience in what John Gardner called “the vivid dream”. They will be carried along by the current of your plot as they get to know the people you’ve created.

Keep Writing.

Cheers,

Bob

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4 thoughts on “Developing Characters – The Blind Date Approach

  1. Good analogy and good example. Whenever you are tempted to use a broad, sweeping adjective, you should think of something concrete to back it up. Definitely something to look for when revising. Nothing makes for a more “vivid dream” than concrete examples.

    1. Good Ole Gardner! Jeff, what was that book you recommended again? I cannot find where I saved the name of it.

      Speaking of edits, my wife reads my post and pointed out that I wrote that I have not been on date in nearly a decade, so I had to change that to first date. Woops.

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