“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.
Part of good storytelling is making the audience believe in the story, believe that the characters really existed, acting out events exactly as the author outlines them. This means everything the character says and does needs to be rooted in who the character is. An author must always be aware of why a character acts and reacts as they do, so that audiences never stop to consider the invisible hand behind the curtain.
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.