Character development

In a similar way to the development of a core theme or idea, the creation and development and growth of characters is a crucial step in the process of creating a piece of writing that is engaging for the audience and at the same time has some credibility to the audience. The purpose of characters in fiction is to enact and drive the narrative as protagonists, antagonists, deuteragonists, tritagonists etc., roles which were established in early Greek drama. In order to understand the character and to give him/her/it credibility it is essential to develop the characters raison d’etre, their purpose, their drives and motivations, and in order to achieve this it can be useful to create for them a strong and positive back story.

Within the graphic novel genre this process is called creating a “bible” or reference work which serves as a creative document that defines and links characters and gives them depth and substance. This process need not appear within the finished work but  by doing it characters tend to be easier to keep under control and their actions and inactions, their thoughts and words tend to have more coherence and cohesion, and their behaviours are more explicable to the audience, even where those behaviours are at odds with social mores and ethics.

An example of this would be the character of Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs”, initial appearing as a highly intelligent and highly functional sociopathic mass murderer and cannibal, but as the story arc develops the story revealed to the audience is one of a character conditioned by early wartime experiences and brutal hardships, the monster being created as a product of their formative environment.This raises issues over the role of nature and nurture in the formation of developmental dynamics and behaviours, which are not addressed in any detail, but it also lends a credibility to the character for the typical reader, and in fact acts to shift the readers sympathies towards the Lecter character as someone who can not help the way that they have grown or the monster that they have become. The reality of this hypothesis is highly contentious but it serves as an interesting study of how a well developed character with a strong and clear back story can be useful in terms of leading the audience in the way that the author intends. It should be noted that as the story develops Lecter can be seen as almost a vigilante character, his victims tending to be abusive characters who “deserve” to be punished, for example the Mason Verger character in the Hannibal, and the Jame Gumb character in The Silence of the Lambs.

Within the current project there are several key characters and the first that will be addressed is the character of the scientist who creates our “Superhero” character. This is a crucial character for the story although the role in the initial story may well end up being either very small or non-existent, but developing an understanding of the creator of the protagonist will serve both to create a back story for the inevitable later stories, as well as helping to define and develop the character of the protagonist themselves.


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