“No man is an island, whole unto itself.” People are always part of a network of relationships, a community. For most it’s a web of familiar faces, with individual relationships growing or fading, much like the tides of the ocean. Characters can even engage relationships without interacting with the other person, through memory and imagination. Similarly, some characters may personify an animal, object, or force of nature. A character struggling to endure a storm may come to regard that storm as a rival, with a will and personality of its own.
9. Character’s Past
In many ways people are a product of their past. People create stories from their past, interpreting what happened to fit how they see themselves. People often try to recreate happy memories, and avoid anything reminiscent of unpleasant ones. Past experiences are another way to gradually reveal character. Here are a few methods for revealing a character’s past.
At first hobbies/preferences and habits/routines are minor details. They offer very little insight about the character, but over time those details can build on each other to create a more well-rounded character. Habits and preferences help to reveal different sides of a character, and build character relationships, as well as enrich scenes with minor self-contained subplots.
Audiences often learn about characters indirectly, through the stories other people share. Some are objective historical accounts, but others rely on personal opinions, observations, and assumptions, including stereotypes, reputations, and relationships.
One way to engage audiences is through characters. Audiences enjoy getting to know the characters, building up to an “ah ha” moment, when the audience understands a little more about who the character is, and how that relates to the story as a whole.