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Day 0 - Introduction
Hello to All My Favorite Writers!
And Welcome to The 5 Day Character Development Challenge!!!
If you’ve taken the 60 Day Novel Writing Challenge before, you may notice a few differences from what you’re used to. For starters, we are NOT trying to write an entire book in five days. That’d be crazy.
These mini-challenges are here to help you refine one specific part of writing and, this week, it is character development!
How Does it Work?
Every day for 5 days, we’ll release a video covering a specific element of character development with a homework assignment at the end. Watch the video, do the homework assignment, and at the end of those 5 days, your characters will be much stronger, more loveable, more hateable, and leave a lasting impression with your readers!
Don’t worry, our homework is always fun! We’ve already gone ahead and made you the worksheets for all 5 days. You can print them out at home or use them digitally. If you don’t have enough room for all of your characters on the sheets, you can always make more copies.
But we highly recommend that you don’t work ahead. Spacing out each lesson and worksheet per day allows you to really focus on each section of the challenge. It helps you better flesh out all your ideas and even create new ones! You can reexamine all your characters with fresh eyes every day and truly get the full benefit of this challenge.
So…How Do I Start?
Don’t worry about enrolling anywhere; just download the worksheets above and get ready for Day One! Print out all the worksheets (including extra copies, if needed) and make this process fun. If you’d like, get a three-ring binder, put the title of your book on the front, and stick those worksheets inside! Make this the best experience possible for YOU. We’ll see you on Day One!
Day 1 - Speaking With Personality
Welcome to Day One of the 5 Day Character Development Challenge!
We’re super excited to see you back and ready to get started on your characters!
Make sure you’ve watched (or read) the post about Day 0 as it introduces the challenge and tells you how to make the most of it.
(For those of you who think it's cool to skip prologues, don't skip Day 0! You know who you are lol.)
What’s Day 1 About?
Today, we are taking a look at Speaking with Personality. It’s very common for both new and experienced writers to have characters who lack personality on the page, so it's important we address it!
An easy way to see if a character is lacking personality is to look at how they deliver their lines. Do they simply say “Hello” when introducing themselves? Do they have generic lines like, “Where’s the bathroom” and "Nice weather we've been having"?
Day One is all about getting rid of those mundane lines and coming up with each of your characters’ personalities. We’ll use those personalities to determine how each character might deliver lines in a unique and recognizable way.
What’s the Goal for Today?
We’re going to make sure that our characters’ lines are unique to each of them. We need to make sure that, even if it’s not specified in the text, readers can still identify who said a line by how it’s delivered. To do this, we need to come up with each characters’ personality (a brief description is perfect) as this is how we’ll know which lines match which character.
Your 5 New Best Friends
For this challenge, we have five very basic personalities to help us examine different ways of delivering lines.
First, we have Margot. She’s a tough businesswoman who represents an aggressive personality. She doesn’t have time to be polite; she’s got a company to run!
Next up, Lisa. She is a jokester who represents a funny personality. She’s always looking for an opportunity to make everyone laugh.
The third is Larry. He is the sweetest guy and represents a nice personality. Look, he even brought you a pizza!
Then, we have Jennifer. She’s fun and flirty. She represents a flirty personality and will make everything she says a little suggestive ;).
Lastly, is Brad. He has a real hard time taking a break from his important business calls. He represents an arrogant personality. He couldn’t even get off his phone to take this group photo!
Watch the video above to see examples of how these five basic personalities deliver their lines, and use it as inspiration for your own characters. See just how much you can say about your characters just based on the way they say things.
Go ahead and fill out your character’s name and give a very brief description of their personality. Are they funny? Loud? Shy? Cowardly? Proud? Volatile? Opinionated? (The list could go on quite a while.)
Then take a look at the five basic situations we’ve given you. What would each of your characters say in these situations? Fill out one of these sections for each character, and we’ve provided some examples in the video if you need help getting started.
Day 2 - Acting/Reacting With Personality
Hello, and welcome back!
Yesterday, we learned all about having your characters speak with personality.
Today, we are going to explore what it means to have your characters Act and React with Personality.
We’ll also be returning to those five character personalities from yesterday, aggressive, funny, nice, flirty, and arrogant.
Acting within writing is the way a character acts (we know, big surprise). But it’s actually super important! It includes all the little mundane things that they do. Let’s take a look at some examples for those five characters.
Knocking into a Door
Margot (Aggressive): Margot would pound on the door.
Lisa (Funny): She’d knock as she says, “Knock knickity knock knock, yoo hoo! You left your underwear in the dryer!”
Larry (Nice): He’d knock softly and wait a solid two minutes before knocking again just to make sure he’s not imposing. And, if nobody answers, he may just leave!
Jennifer (Flirty): She’d probably send a text with something like, “It’s so cold outside with hardly any clothes on! Please come to the door!”
Brad (Arrogant): Brad probably wouldn’t knock at all. He’d just push the door open and say, “Hey, hope you don’t mind. I let myself in.”
Reacting is the way your characters will react to stimuli. These moments can be a great opportunity to infuse personality into simple actions.
Reacting to Somebody Slamming a Door Into Them:
Margot (Aggressive): She’d probably shove the door back into the person who shoved it into her.
Lisa (Funny): Lisa might fall to the ground and fake a serious injury very dramatically.
Larry (Nice): He’d probably apologize even though he’s the one who got hit. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I’m the one who was standing in the way!”
Jennifer (Flirty): She’d ask someone to kiss it better.
Brad (Arrogant): He’d lecture the offending person on how to properly use doors.
Tips for Success
Remember to use language, body language, and direct action to help you convey personality within these moments.
But, also remember that these are meant to be one-off moments. Don’t spend too much time on these actions, as having your characters perform actions the exact same way can make them look neurotic. So, avoid writing your character knocking on the door the same way every time they enter the room unless, of course, that’s a major part of who they are.
Like yesterday, fill out the worksheet which corresponds to today’s theme, and print out however many copies you need to fit all your characters.
Then fill out how each of your characters would react to the situation presented. Two of the situations have to do with acting and the others involve reacting.
Day 3 - Character Introductions
Welcome to Day Three of the 5 Day Character Development Challenge!
So far, we’ve spent quite a bit of time focused on building our characters’ personalities.
Now, we keep those personalities in mind as we decide how a character’s introduction will showcase who they are.
Today is also, sadly, the last day our 5 characters will be helping us out. They will be missed.
In order for characters to be remembered, they have to have some sort of impact on the reader.
It’s crucial that we show who the characters are so readers form a connection. If the character’s entrance is not impactful, it’s likely your reader will forget who they are immediately. But, the character who makes a reader laugh in their introduction will be remembered.
How do I know if My Characters’ Introductions are Memorable?
When you go back through your work, try changing your characters' names. Run a find and replace on your story and switch the names out for new ones. As writers, we get attached to our characters, and that makes it tough to know how they look to someone who’s just met them.
By changing their names, you get to meet your characters for the first time again. Read through your story with these unfamiliar names and see if you still like your characters as much.
What if my Introductions Aren’t Memorable?
You’ve probably heard this before, but “show, don’t tell”.
Don’t tell the reader your character is hilarious, have your character be hilarious. Conversations should move the plot forward and be part of the larger scene. So, instead of stopping the story to have two characters discuss how funny a third character is, have that third character’s entrance be funny!
Fill out today’s worksheet, and really try to be intentional with how you are going to make readers love or hate your characters' personalities. No personality is inherently good or bad so it's up to you what context you want to add to sway readers on what to feel.
Here are some examples of how to spin a character introduction:
Margot (Aggressive): With Margot, we want readers to feel intimidated. So, let’s have the main character walk-in for an interview, and they hear Margot say, “Make sure those numbers are published or you’re fired!”
Lisa (Funny): We want the reader to have the impression that Lisa is awesome to have around. The reader should crave seeing Lisa again. What if we introduce Lisa into the story wearing a T-Rex costume and ruining somebody’s date?
Larry (Nice): We want the reader to know how kind, lovable, and generous Larry is. His introduction could be rescuing an elderly lady’s puppy from traffic to show how he really goes out of his way to help out. That also lets the reader know that he’s possibly a little bit brave!
Jennifer (Flirty): Let’s say we want the reader to HATE Jennifer. And so, maybe we have a love triangle between Jennifer and two other characters. Those two other characters could be out on a date and they’re experiencing tension because one has been flirting with Jennifer pretty heavily. Then, Jennifer saunters over to their table and grabs the cherry of the first character’s drink and eats it seductively. Readers will most likely hate Jennifer for undermining the relationship that this couple is trying to save!
Brad (Arrogant): We can make readers love or hate Brad even though he’s arrogant, but today, let’s have them hate him. Say we have a couple characters re-siding their house. Brad would stop walking his dog to come over and lecture about exactly how they are doing it wrong. He’d probably even say he hates the paint color they chose too!
Day 4 - Character Appearances
Welcome to Day Four of the 5 Day Character Development Challenge!
In the last three days, we have explored how to infuse lines with a character’s personality (Day One), how to have a character act and react with personality (Day Two), and how to introduce a character in a way that’s memorable (Day Three).
Today, we’ll be taking a deep dive into Character Appearances. We’ll go through how to introduce your character using more than just the generic descriptions (hair color/length, eye color, and build).
An infinite number of ways to physically describe a person exist so, why do writers get stuck using the same 3 features? Today, we want to focus on using Unique Physical Features to describe our characters.
Here are some examples of what we mean:
Musculature (giant arms, tiny legs)
Wrinkle Pattern (can show if a character laughed or scowled a lot)
Uniquely Sized or Proportioned Facial Features (giant eyes)
Write your characters’ appearances so well that if you simply mention a large figure with teeny tiny legs, your reader will know exactly who that figure is.
These features don’t have to purely be physical either. Maybe your character has a wacky style of glasses. Are those glasses giant? Tiny? Bright and colorful? Or, just black?
All of those little choices let your reader subtly know your character as a person.
How much effort a character puts into their appearance helps the reader to know what is important to that character. The clothes a character wears can be described in more detail than just what style of clothing it is. Are their clothes wrinkled? Two sizes too big? Do they wear loud accessories? Are the colors more muted or super bright?
Remember that appearances don’t make the character but they do help clue the reader into their personality.
Tip For Success
The most important tip we can give you when it comes to describing appearances is to not stop your story to give every little detail about your character.
All descriptions should be weaved in in order to move the plot forward.
If your plot is all about your characters getting sick then maybe one person blows their nose and the tissue comes away caked in makeup. This tells the reader the character wears a ton of makeup but does it in a way that is still relevant to the story.
Make sure that everything comes back to moving the plot forward or else you run the risk of slowing your pacing way down.
Fill out today’s worksheet and brainstorm your characters’ unique features. Think about the way you will introduce those features through plot-driving action.
Day 5 - The Reader-Character Connection
Welcome to the final day of the 5 Day Character Development Challenge!
Before we get started, we just want to thank you for joining us these last five days! We’ve learned a lot together, and we hope your characters are reaping the benefits.
Let us know what other five-day challenges you want to see us do in the future!
Our next video will be about the 60 Day Novel Writing Challenge which is all about going from a blank page to a finished novel in just 60 Days!
Now, today we’re going to cover possibly the most important aspect of character development, the Reader-Character Connection.
We’re going to look at how your reader feels about each character and how we can make that connection happen.
Positive and Negative Emotions
Reader attachments are created in two different ways–using positive emotions and negative emotions.
Negative emotions are the easier of the two because everybody can get angry at the jerk character, and then feel good when they see justice served. People can also empathize with characters in tough situations, and root for them to improve. Positive emotions are a trickier subject.
The thing about positive emotions is that they are subjective.
Not everyone likes the same personalities or actions. Humor, too, is subjective because not everyone finds the same things funny. If you are trying to convey that your character is having a blast playing video games but your audience doesn’t game, it’s hard to make them feel the same joy your character or a gamer would.
It’s not impossible to garner positive emotions but it definitely is a little harder.
Tips for Success
Think about what you want your audience to want from your character.
Do they want to see them escape? Get caught? Maybe they just want to spend more time with them. Whatever it is, you need to keep that in mind as you write your characters.
If you don’t establish that emotional connection, your readers will neither love nor hate your characters. They might not even care about them!
Always remember that the reader’s emotions are the most important. Do not focus on the characters' emotions over the reader’s. If the character is happy doing something awful you have to focus on how that will make your reader feel.
Fill out today’s worksheet and figure out the connection the reader should have to the character, which reader emotion would best establish that connection, and how you will create that emotion.
Thanks for joining us for the 5 Day Character Development Challenge! It’s been a blast!