Develop Memorable Characters
A ghostwriters secrets for character development
The right character sets a trajectory that is capable of carrying your story the distance. To achieve three dimensional depth for that character requires careful design though.
Memorable characters are rarely happy accidents.
When we describe a well known protagonist such as Breaking Bad’s Walter White, we start with the most basic terms. Walter is a bedraggled family man and high school science teacher who upon discovering that he has a rare from of cancer decides he must come up with a way to pay for his expensive treatment.
This is a classic set-up. A guy with a problem that he has to reach far outside himself to solve. White could have curled up in a ball and accepted his fate, but that would not make for very interesting story telling.
Walter makes the informed decision to start cooking methamphetamine in order to make that kind of money. White is a science teacher. That means he can’t go and ask his boss for a raise. He has to reach outside of his world to drum up any serious cash. His job inhibits him on one hand but it enables him too. White he knows chemistry. Beakers and flasks and gas masks are his native environment.
To develop memorable characters, keep in mind that they must have something working against them achieving their goal. It should be insurmountable. It isn’t enough that White has to buy a broken down old Winnebago and lie to his wife in order to do cook up his drugs. The complications must escalate further and in a unique manner.
Walter White can cook the meth but he doesn’t know the first thing about selling methamphetamine. So, Walter is forced to enlist the help of his former student, Jesse Pinkman.
Herein you find a unique seed of conflict. White is an absolute control freak. The linear trajectory of his plan to manufacture and sell drugs is complicated by Pinkman’s more chaotic nature. The guy is a total screw up. His bumbling academic incompetence is precisely why he stuck out to White in the first place.
How do we escalate a story problem from the main character like in Breaking Bad? Here are a couple of questions I like to ask when I develop memorable characters to get to a deeper level.
Who Is The Character’s Natural Opposite?
I ask this question often throughout the story design stages. Who opposes my main character and their journey? Answering this comes both inside and outside of that character’s team.
In Breaking Bad there are enough competing street toughs and DEA agents to complicate White’s ascendance to meth kingpin. Those are complications from outside of White’s circle.
Character becomes interesting when you antagonize from inside of the protagonist’s circle as well. Pinkman is as much an antagonist as he is sales associate. Jessie offers a natural personality conflict to the power hungry White but they must struggle to work together. Neither White nor Pinkman can thrive in this new world without the other’s skill set.
Who Is The Character’s Story Doppelgänger?
Here is where this can get even more interesting. When creating a character arc, I like to look into the story at who is so similar to my main character that their purposes intersect and complicate one another.
Take Skyler White, Walter’s loving wife. At first the reality of her husband’s drug dealings are abhorrent. The taste of money and control gets to Skyler though. It feeds her in a way that is new and exciting to her.
Much of Breaking Bad is spent in a cat-and-mouse game between Walter and Skyler. Early on he does whatever he can to keep this revelation from her. The series becomes even more interesting (and I would argue attains legendary status) when they become two cats after the same mouse.
If you’d like to get to know how a professional ghostwriter can help you develop memorable characters for your stories, get in touch! Developing a good relationship with a ghostwriter can make the difference between getting published and wishing you could!