Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Character Development & Genre: How much is to much?

 Character development is a tricky subject, and there are many ways to do it. So, how deep do your characters actually need to be? Well, it's your choice.
 Do you want an incredibly real and complex character for your explosion filled Indiana Jones style adventure? If you do, go ahead but it might be wasted.  The action genre doesn't normally have terribly complex or deep characters. Why? The characters are second to the action and plot.  Take Indiana Jones for example. What do you know about him? He's a professor and a treasure hunter. He's good with his fists and a bull whip. From the movies, that's about all we know about him. That's enough to know about him. We don't need to know anything else about him to enjoy the story.
 On the other hand, a shallow character more appropriate for an adventure novel won't work for a hefty 950 page literary novel. For a novel of this length and plot, you need fully developed characters. You would need to know everything about them, from motives to dreams. A shallow adventurer just won't have the color to move the story along. It would be like a tiny car engine trying to move a dump truck. It doesn't have the oomph to push it along.
 Back to the same comparison, a fully fleshed out, completely life-like character would have to much information. Does it matter that the main character dis-likes sports because he failed to make a team once? Only if it is directly related to the story.

 But what about the other genres? Fantasy? Science fiction? Historical fiction? Well, it depends on your story. Some fantasy stories are shorter and focus more on the plot. They don't need much character development. Others are extremely long and need rounded characters. It's the same for science fiction. Some need deep characters while others need shallow characters.
  More realistic genres, however, need fully developed characters. This is mainly because in a world remarkably similar to our own, need people that we can know well and understand.

 To wrap it up, speculative genres leave the amount of character development up to the story. Real world stories need better developed characters.


  1. Wow! Really good post! I have a hard time developing my characters and as a result, I have to go back into my novel and develop them more, which means more revisions.

    Elizabeth Dresdow

  2. Thanks.
    I'll probably post a part 2 soon.

  3. Very interesting. I generally prefer mediums and styles that encourage deep characters, but my dramatic style leans towards "character-driven."

    Oh, but we do know that Junior is afraid of snakes. :D

  4. I like to read deep characters if they're like Jason Bourne, but the genres I read and write generally lean towards the shallower character development.

    That we do, I forgot that part.


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