Character Development: Snowflake Method

The main focus of the snowflake method is to develop your plot, but character development is equally as important.  For some writers, it is even more important.  I found that while the first few steps of the snowflake method help me to start draft ideas, it isn’t until I get to the character development stages that my novel starts to take most of its shape.  This is because I am very character driven.

Character development starts in step three of the snowflake method but in step five really starts to take its form.  I use a Character Development Sheet to help me start to fledge out my characters.  Feel free to check it out and use it for your own writing.

Take step five of the snowflake method to spend at least a couple of hours flushing out each character.  Start by answering as many of the questions on the first half of the sheet as possible.  This allows you to be more in touch with the character when it comes to writing from their point of view.

When it comes to writing a page of the story from their point of view be only as specific as you want.  I try to focus more specifically on the start of the character then have a guideline for how they will end up.  This allows me to start with a static character then continue character development throughout the first draft.

Tips For Character Development

Don’t Force It

Many people see the character development sheet or read a book about character development and think they have to answer every question about a character.  You don’t.  You simply need to answer the questions needed for YOU to create a believable character.

If your character development doesn’t come naturally it won’t be a character you want in your book.  At that point it is time to reconsider their part.

Visualize Your Character

When it comes to developing my characters I like to have at least an idea of what they look like.  Usually, I will find a picture of someone who matches my idea of the character whether this be a friend or a stranger.  This helps me to better understand how the character would appear to other people.  It also helps make the character more real.

For larger projects that I know I might be working on for a while I have actually commissioned character sketches from artists.  I have done this three times.

Introduce Yourself To Your Character

It may seem somewhat goofy but your character should feel like it is living and breathing to your readers.  Introduce yourself to your character and in your mind make it a real person.  The more you treat the character as a real person the easier it will be to develop them.

I once got feedback from a published author and editor that it didn’t feel as if I knew a specific character as well as I should. They told me that before I pitched that story to anyone that I should go back and really work on the character and be able to speak from their voice when pitching the novel or answering questions about it.

Develop Backstories For Your Character Development

As you are going through the character development sheet look for points that stand out to you.  It may be a like, it may be a dislike.  Scars and tattoos are great because you can create a thorough back story behind them.

Jot these stories down.  There is an additional notes section on my character development sheet but you can also create a separate document or use a program like Scrivener to manage all of your character information.

Don’t Make Your Character A Superhero

Many writers want to make their main characters superheroes unless your character is a superhero.  What I mean is that your character shouldn’t be invincible with no way to be killed and good at everything.  Everyone has a fault.

An Example of How I Developed The Main Character

Because of the length of this post I decided to only include one of the characters that I have developed for the story that I am working on.

In the following link [Jasper Riley – Character Development Sheet] you will find a PDF of my character development sheet for the main character in Monday’s post, Jasper “Jasp”  Riley.

Character Development - Potential Jasper Riley Photo
For every character I like to have a rough picture of the individual in my head. This is roughly what I picture Jasper Riley as looking like. I didn’t draw it, I converted it from a free-for-commercial-use photo.

One Page Synopsis From The Character’s Point of View

Below is the one-page synopsis from Jasper Riley’s point of view.  I just want to make it known that I have yet to concrete the name for the alien race.  I just wanted a placeholder.

After one of the hardest missions I had ever been on I was summoned to the base commander’s office.  There wasn’t even time to mourn my lost team member, Zachariah.  Instead when I arrived there I was told that I was being sent to a unit that was so classified that he was the only one on the base that could brief me.

I opened the letter handed to me by the base commander once I was out of the office and was surprised to find that it didn’t contain much information. From there I met with an official who claimed to be from an international agency known as the Earth Defense Union.  All he would provide me with were orders to proceed to Camp Starbound, a base that I had never heard of.  When I arrived at Camp Starbound I was astonished by what I was told I would be doing.  I would be training in all things space.  I wasn’t an astronaut.  But when I brought up that point I was told it was mute.  I was not being sent there to pilot space ships, I was being sent to fight, or at least guard.  It was like something out of a science fiction movie.

When the first combat shuttle landed on the ground and the instructors disembarked in powered armor suits it was hard to argue.  On my first trip to Space Station Alpha it was impossible to argue.  I threw myself into the new life that I found training with the other marines that were learning how to fight in space.  When I was a kid I watched every science fiction movie and television show out there.  Now I was going to be able to live them.

Training wasn’t easy but it was fun.  Oh, how I loved it.  But as my training was being completed Earth discovered a new alien race, the Shavara.  A race that lived a lifestyle of war and combat.  At the time we began introductions with them.  Upon my graduation I was promoted to First Lieutenant and given command of Enhanced Special Battle Team 21.  A team that was once known for its prowess and skill.  When I took over though all I found were a bunch of unruly people that didn’t even seem to be members of the military from their actions.

Our first assignment was to the EDU Allegiance as a team to respond to special threats.  First stop, Shavara space.  Right as we arrived though we were greeted by pissed of Shavara who only wanted to fight.  When we engaged with them I felt hopeless.  I couldn’t leave the ship. Then the Shavara boarded us and it became an intense battle.  Without our enhanced battle suits the Shavara were stronger but the suits couldn’t make it through the hallways of the ship.

We won, but barely.  On his dying breath one of the Shavara threatened that we may have one the day but they would be coming for Earth.  We fast-tracked it back to Earth with a Shavara ship following us half the way.  We managed to bring the warning without bringing the Shavara but it was only a matter of time before they would be able to find our space.  Many races had met the humans after all.

A battle for Earth ensued and all that the Allegiance could do with her battle damage was to evacuate important people and take them to an allied world.  My teams job was to get to the President of the United States and secure him, get him to a shuttle, and return him the ship.  With Shavara ground forces landing and transporting everywhere that wasn’t going to be easy.  We did it though and managed to get back to the ship.  The Shavara did not care about one ship limping away from the battle, destroying it would have been dishonorable.  We escaped to fight another day.  Most importantly us and our counterparts were able to evacuate some of the key players on Earth.  Enough that we could come back, retake the planet.  Part of the Athius Protocol.

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