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Character Development
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John Patrick Lamont

John Patrick Lamont is author of The Worst Kind of Lies, the first novel in his Sum of Life Trilogy. His novels deal with corporate corruption in the insurance industry. To learn more about his writing, read reviews and download excerpts, please visit  J. Patrick Lamont or Sum of Life Books

 
By John Patrick Lamont
Published on September 8, 2009
 

So, you have a killer plotline idea that you’re confident will sell a million books You may even have a title that will jump off the front cover and grab the attention of anyone who sees it



So, you have a killer plotline idea that you’re confident will sell a million books You may even have a title that will jump off the front cover and grab the attention of anyone who sees it.

So, you have a killer plotline idea that you’re confident will sell a million books. You may even have a title that will jump off the front cover and grab the attention of anyone who sees it. That’s great! You’re way ahead of the majority of people who dream of writing the Great American Novel. Now, as you grasp your pad of paper or boot up your computer, where’s a good place to not only start bringing it into reality, but also adding elements for sequels and even spin-offs into other marketing products like games, tee shirts and action figures? Perhaps the best place to start is in-depth character development.

Stories are about people and events. Sometimes written works will wander into detailed descriptions of the book environment, costuming or technical and mechanical explanations, but successful stories always return to the characters. Some authors start with basic sketches and allow their people, animals or artificially intelligent machines to evolve as the story develops, while others write detailed biographies and short stories to flesh them out. Whatever process you use, by the time the first draft of your manuscript is finished, if even the minor players in your tale are not believable, your story may fall flat, losing your audience.

By definition, fiction is something feigned, invented or imagined, the phenomenon of suspension of disbelief is required for the story to come alive in the mind of your reader. Your cover design or the story synopsis on the jacket may have developed expectations, but before the first words on page one are read, the book is like a blank canvas. The mind behind the eyes gazing upon your words is allowing you to win their trust that the next hundreds of pages will be an entertaining fantasy worth setting reality aside for a period of time. If your characters seem real to them, no matter how much your imaginary world challenges the beliefs and understandings of your reader, the fragile suspension of disbelief will hold their interest.

Great imaginary people in literature have captivated the attention of millions of people for centuries. Only a small percentage of those alive today wouldn’t immediately recognize the names of characters from works by Twain, Dickens, Fleming, Rowling and many others. Like actors, once firmly in the mindset of the general public, the characters become bankable. They not only sell more books beyond the initial publication, but also transcend the original story and create a demand for sequels or products to fulfill other areas in our lifestyle where we require imagination and inspiration.

No matter what the original intent of the author for creating the work from which the characters sprang, once they become marketable, not only do they help communicate the author’s vision, but they also help fulfill the financial needs of the author to support the continued existence of the books. Fiction sparks our imagination and helps us evaluate the principles of justice and morality in our societies. Like parables, great literary works with lifelike fictional characters gives us a base from which to measure our real world. If we can dream up or be inspired by people who are better than ourselves, then perhaps we have the capacity for improvement.

(Originally published at GoArticles and reprinted with permission from the author, John Patrick Lamont).