As I’m planning the scenes of my next novel, I am also starting to think about the nature of the new characters I don’t really know yet. You see, I spent so much time with Anna and Daniel, the protagonists of Words for Anna, that it feels rather strange to tell someone else’s story from the beginning and allowing readers to be in these characters’ heads all the time.

And this is the part I find challenging in terms of character development: the balance between relatable and interesting. Because, let’s face it, the ‘perceived normal’ may not always be that interesting, even if it promotes comfort in us to read about.

So how do you add traits to these characters that you may not possess yourself, or opinions that are a little foreign to us as writers, and dialogue that you may not ever hear yourself say?

We throw caution to the wind, dear friends. Avoid that stereotype (or not), spend enough time on those backstories that may seem static at best, and double the dose of empathy for likeability and the human factor.

And keep a record of these traits, that is easily accessible when you are on your tenth edit and you can’t remember whether the female protagonist had been consistently jumpy throughout the book, or whether this only started happening somewhere in the middle of the last edit. Had her mother always been from a small town which made her weary of large crowds, but the most welcoming person she had ever known? And what was the male protagonist’s fall-back behaviour when confronted?

Are you feeling stressed yet?

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