THE MAGIC OF A WELL-DEVELOPED CHARACTER IN FANTASY FICTION
- A young wizard with a scarred forehead, facing the challenges of destiny;
- a brave young woman volunteering as a tribute, embodying courage in the face of oppression;
- a humble hobbit journeying far from home, shouldering the immense responsibility of a powerful ring;
- and a brooding warrior in the snowy North, struggling with honor and leadership amidst treacherous politics.
Characters like Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Frodo Baggins, and Jon Snow aren't just fragments of stories.
They've become iconic figures, lessons, and dear friends in our collective imagination, shaping our emotions, values, and dreams.
Each of us, as readers, has at some point connected deeply with a character in a novel or story.
A well-written character becomes more than just words on a page;
they transform into a friend, an adversary, a mentor, or even a reflection of our own self.
These characters challenge our beliefs, evoke strong emotions, and can even influence our decisions and perspectives in real life.
Their struggles become our struggles, their triumphs our joy.
When a character is developed with depth and authenticity, it can resonate with us to the point of making us question, grow, and empathize in ways we hadn't imagined.
This is the power of skillful character development in storytelling.
As an avid reader and a new epic fantasy author,
I have always loved characters
Star Wars was my first love of characters - with over 400 characters to get to know
But George RR Martins's Game of Thrones is the best example of character development. It has given me so much inspiration
I've always been captivated by the description and depth of characters within stories. Their diversity, their relatability, and their intricacies have consistently drawn me in.
This fascination led me not only to explore and study these characters but also to create my own, taking inspiration from the world around me.
My journey has been one of observation and imagination, striving to build a diverse and authentic cast of characters that will resonate deeply with readers.
The Magic of a well-developed character:
"In fantasy fiction, it's not the magic, myths, or mysteries but the well-developed characters that cast the most potent magic it's the depth of its characters that casts a spell on our souls, making us part of tales we've never lived but deeply feel."
The three main points of character development are
- Backstory and Motivations: We'll explore how a character's history shapes their actions, beliefs, and desires in the story, offering depth and explaining their choices and behaviors.
- Growth and Arc: We'll delve into the importance of dynamic character changes and how the evolution of characters, prompted by the story's events, contributes to the narrative.
- Relatability: We'll examine the vital role of characters in creating a connection with readers, making the fantastical realms feel personal and resonant with real-world emotions and experiences.
1st Main Point is Backstory and Motivations
Backstory and Motivations - refer to a character’s history and the driving forces behind their actions and beliefs. This aspect of character development provides depth and explains why characters behave in certain ways, shaped by their past experiences, traumas, joys, and challenges.
Terry Brooks, in "Sometimes the Magic Works," emphasizes how a character's past experiences shape their future actions and decisions. Harry Potter’s childhood, for instance, instills resilience and influences his determination to fight against injustice.
- Significance of Backstory: Every great character in fantasy fiction has a past that shapes who they are. For instance, Harry Potter’s tragic early years, losing his parents and living under harsh conditions with his relatives, instill in him a sense of resilience and a longing for belonging. This background explains his fierce loyalty to his friends and his determination to fight against injustice.
- Impact of Experiences: Characters’ experiences add layers to their personality. Frodo Baggins, initially living a carefree life in the Shire, is thrust into a perilous journey. This drastic shift from comfort to chaos profoundly affects his worldview and decisions, particularly in the way he handles the burden of the ring.
- Driving Forces: Understanding what motivates a character is crucial. Katniss Everdeen is initially driven by the simple yet powerful motivation to protect her sister, which propels her into the dangerous arena of the Hunger Games, shaping her actions and character development.
While the backstory and motivations set the stage, it's the growth and arc that truly bring characters to life.
2nd Point is Growth and Arc
- Growth and Arc - refer to the development and transformation of a character over the course of the narrative. This growth is not just a change in abilities or circumstances, but an evolution in the character’s personality, beliefs, and worldview, often influenced by the challenges they face and the decisions they make.
Stephen King, in "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft," highlights the necessity of characters evolving over a story. Jon Snow’s evolution from a young Night’s Watch recruit to a key leader in "Game of Thrones" is a prime example of this dynamic change.
- Dynamic Change: Characters undergo significant changes, which is central to their appeal.
Jon Snow in "Game of Thrones" evolves from a young, inexperienced member of the Night’s Watch to a key leader. This evolution is shaped by his experiences and the decisions he makes in response to the complex world around him.
- Learning and Adapting: Characters learn and adapt as they face challenges.
Daenerys Targaryen’s journey from a timid, exiled princess to a powerful and assertive ruler is a classic example of growth driven by the events she experiences.
- Reflecting Real Life: These evolutions mirror our own journey of changes and self-discovery, making characters and their stories compelling and relatable.
However, while growth and arc are essential, it's the characters' ability to resonate with us that truly cements their place in our hearts and minds.
The 3rd point is Relatability
- Relatability - Relatability in character development refers to the ability of characters to form connections with the reader, often through reflecting emotions, struggles, and aspirations that are universally understood or personally resonant. This connection allows readers to see a part of themselves in the characters, making the fantastical elements of the story more accessible and impactful.
- Connection with Readers: The connection characters form with readers is crucial.
Despite living in a fantasy world, characters like Hermione Granger resonate with many readers due to her intelligence, loyalty, and the feeling of being an outsider, reflecting common human experiences.
- Echoing Universal Emotions: Characters like Aragorn exhibit emotions and face dilemmas that are universally understood. His struggle with self-doubt and the burden of leadership are relatable to anyone who has faced responsibility and self-identity issues.
- Anchoring in the Story: This relatability anchors readers to the narrative.
Tyrion Lannister’s wit, his struggle for acceptance in a world that constantly belittles him, and his complex family dynamics resonate deeply with readers, making his journey not just a tale to read but an experience to be felt.
So, today in our journey through the world of fantasy fiction, we’ve seen that it’s not just about the epic battles or the magical spells. It’s really the characters - how they’re written and described - that grab us and pull us into their world.
- We’ve explored how the backstory and motivations, highlighted by authors like Terry Brooks, make characters more than just names on a page.
- We’ve looked at how their growth and arcs, like Stephen King describes, make them feel real and relatable.
- And we’ve seen, thanks to George R.R. Martin, how important it is for characters to connect with us on a personal level.
Now, I challenge you guys - next time you’re reading your favorite book or even watching a movie, take a closer look at the characters you love.
Ask yourself, why do I like them? Ask yourself what about their story, their struggles, or their personality speaks to me?
There’s a sort of magic that happens when a character is well-developed.
It’s like they jump off the page and become part of our world.
Maybe you’ll find pieces of yourself in them, or maybe they’ll show you a new way of seeing things.
Try to understand what makes these characters so special. It might just change the way you read stories forever.
And who knows? It might even inspire some of you to write your own as it has for me.
Let's keep the magic of great characters alive, both in the books we read and in the stories we create.
Thanks for listening, everyone!