Working on your character development

Whatever experience our character has during the course of your story will be filtered by their memories, beliefs, values and attitudes.

You have probably written copious notes about your character, developing a back story and a set of experiences and memories that will determine how they react during your novel to the various situations you will throw at them. You will know what your character stands for, what is important to them, what they believe in and what drives them. These are all fairly standard processes of creative writing and you will be more familiar with them than I. It’s all about interrogating your character isn’t it and being able to answer confidently how they would respond to different scenarios.

But what are these Meta-Programmes and how can it help you to know about them?

They are filters on our world which will add any dimension to the understanding of your character.

1. Towards / Away from – is your character motivated by what they do want and driven forwards towards their goals or do they focus on what they want to avoid. Do they for example look to achieve something or do they seek to avoid confrontation, avoid failure, avoid risk?

2. Internal / external referencing – do they seek to gain the approval of others, or does it matter more that they are true to their own beliefs and values?

3. Past/present/future – where do they place their focus? Do they live very much in the present, do they think of what they want in the future or do they dwell on the past?

4. Choices/process – does your character thrive on choices or do they just go through life like a ‘to do’ list?

5. Big chunk/small chunk – some people are better at concept thinking, broad brush ideas but are less good at the detail. Where does your character excel? If you have two main characters it may help the pace to have one small chunk, the person who can organise and manage detail and the other with the blue sky thinking.

6. Associate/disassociate – someone who associates is one who can empathize easily and feel the pain of others as if it were there own. Someone who disassociates will notice the others’ pain but from a distance. They will not be affected by it. This distancing can be a useful tool when you want to encourage the reader to stand back and notice something.

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