Thursday, May 2, 2013


Welcome to my blog. Read my thoughts on this great topic, then leave a comment and be entered to win swag! (Within the U.S. only. Entrants outside the U.S. eligible to win e-books only)

Recently I was putting together a Character Development mini-session for upcoming conferences. When breaking down the steps of developing characters, the first task was to decide who your character was. Was he the hero or the villain, or the villain you can't help but love. Once you decide what he's going to be, you have to know why he's the way he is. Maybe that villain is not so bad. Maybe he was driven to his evil acts.

Looking for the perfect character example, my imagination went to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Just saying his name you can see and hear him in your head. When asked to name a ‘bad guy’, many of us jump to Darth Vader’s iconic image, but consider the path of his development into such a character.

Anakin started out as a cute kid, but a slave who rebuilt droids and raced flyers. Over the series of three movies he became a hero, fell in love, then faced personal conflicts and loss. His path to the Dark Side wasn't born of evil, but of fear and pain. Evil simply found his weakness and exploited it. His journey turned him into a man driven by desperation, convinced that even those he loved had turned against him. The leap to Darth Vader, a demon, a tool for pure hatred, was easy for Evil to achieve, but deep in his core lived the true soul of Anakin. Deep down was the little boy who fell in love with Padmé Amidala.

Confronted by the final battle and the terrible choice of killing his own son, that tiny burning ember of who he once was, a Jedi… a husband… a father… returned. He fought to save his son and as he lay dying, he asked for the mask to be removed. Anakin, not Vader, wanted to look upon his son just once with his own eyes. Anakin wanted to die as a man, not as a monster.

What a perfect example for character development, spanning the full ever-evolving life of Anakin Skywalker. The same thing should happen to your characters. They need to start out innocent enough, have their beliefs challenged, maybe corrupted, but come out the other end a different, a better person… or dead. Nothing’s wrong with killing off the totally unredeemable character. Just do it in a way that leaves the reader turning the page.

Characters morph. That's another rule. We see them in our head or at least have an idea of them when we start a story, but often by the time we're done, they've grown into someone we weren't expecting.

I found myself in that position when I wrote "The Thing Down the Road". I still ask myself who the story was about, the narrator, the subject of observation, or ultimately all of us beneath our civilized skin. The subject terrifies everyone he came in contact with, even himself, but he lets his one friend see beneath the horror. He lets his friend see the anguish left when everything else was taken away.

This story makes you ask if you could do the unthinkable at the price of your soul, if it was the only thing left to do, if it was the right thing to do? Read "The Thing Down the Road", by T.L. Smith and see if you can answer that question.

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Ron Fritsch blog
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Jolea M Harrison blog
Tinney Heath blog
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Kyle Lewis blog
Paula Lofting blog
Liz Long blog
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