Character Development

Dear Fellow Journalers,

“The Story” still had no title, which bothered me. At odd times during the day I would find myself adding to the storyline.  Descriptive phrases, scenery, conversations between characters roamed through my mind like lost horses trying to find their way home. Finally, I just decided to write a first draft so that I would have something concrete to work on. At first it seemed odd to me to have what was once in my brain on paper and although it filled up the blank pages, I wondered if I captured what was in my thoughts.

After I finished writing the first two chapters, which was, I admit, fairly easy, I left the whole thing on my computer for a day or two. The process was like waiting for dough to rise – New thoughts kept me up at night. I decided to read “the story” out loud to see if I could help it along. What a shock! My characters were flatter than pancakes!  The characters, as portrayed by actors, were well known by any viewer of the tv show, but two of them in my Story were older than portrayed. So I began to question myself how do I show their feelings? My other problem was that I was writing about men in the 1870’s. A good friend of mine gave me some really good advice ” men have the same feelings as women, they just express them differently.”

I naively thought that I could devote one page for each character but that was not the case. So my question was how do I show emotions and feelings? In real life, it’s pretty easy to tell if a person is excited or nervous. You know from what they say, how they say it, body language and actions. I ended up with a type of questionnaire for each character displaying various actions and thoughts. Here are some of them:

  • He rubbed the back of his neck in frustration
  • He snapped
  • His voice strangled in his throat
  • He felt slightly nervous
  • He was angry
  • He felt guilty
  • He grimaced
  • He kicked the chair leg
  • He tossed and turned in his bed
  • Drinking did not help
  • Drinking fueled his anger so much that he smashed his fist into the wall
  • He sank to his knees and cried
  • He raised an eyebrow
  • He listened with his whole body
  • He gave him a short side-glance
  • His eyes looked past me
  • His eyes studied the floor
  • His voice trailed off
  • He let out a long breath
  • He offered up a flat smile
  • His hands shook
  • He squinted
  • He gave them a measured look
  • He glanced
  • He surveyed the street
  • He dragged his feet
  • He crawled across the ground
  • He strolled
  • He hurled his trembling body


The story was going to be about friendship, brotherhood, family, despair, hope and faith. Two of the characters would grow up; one would face his inner demons and all of the family would emerge from their ordeal better men. After I started to “flesh out” my characters, I read the first two chapters to a friend who hated it! “Too disconnected – start again”! I was totally disappointed that they felt that way and almost gave up. But a little voice told me to continue and so I did.

Next week – ‘re-writing and the title revealed!


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July 2020

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