Elements Of Character Development
The Alchemists of old knew a thing or two about creating things, turning lead into gold, unlocking the secrets of the universe, and so forth.
They did so with the firm belief in four basic elements.
Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
With these they believed they could create anything.
Let’s apply that to creating a rounded out character:
This is where the roots of your Character are.
What is their History?
Their resume of skills?
What do they look like?
Who were their parents?
What was their childhood Dog’s name?
The Roots of your Character are grown from the facts of their existence.
How well do you know that aspect of them?
“From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow” – Aeschylus
Earth is the grounding of your character, Their security, solidity and growth.
Fire is what forges your Character.
What are their trials?
What Have they been through?
What have been their challenges?
What do they hate and why?
What are their fears?
What have they suffered before?
How did it affect them?
What has tempered your Character?
“The toughest Steel is forged by the hottest Fire.” -Unknown
Fire is what leads your Character to and through the story.
Air uplifts your Character.
What are their hopes, dreams and aspirations?
What do they want?
Why do they want it?
What sliver of hope do they cling to when times are tough?
What motivates them?
“Listen closely to the Wind… It is the sound of leaves in the trees, dancing & beautiful poetry across the skies.” – Unknown
Air is a powerful element to bring to bear, it motivates and inspires, gives cause to your character. A gentle breeze or enough to blow your mind… The choice is yours.
Water is your Characters adaptability and endurance. I can’t put it better than a great philosopher, Bruce Lee:
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
The Water Element is what brings flow and ebb into your Character. A gentle trickle or a complete tsunami… Water has the ability to help you chart your characters course…
But we’re not turning Lead into Gold are we?
So far we’ve got ourselves a fairly acceptable Character, We know they’re balanced, we know they can survive in a plot and if we left it there we could get away with it…
But should we?
We’re making Magic, not gold.
What is the thing we’re missing for a truly memorable character, not just in the readers mind, but in ours as authors.
If we turn to the rules of magic, there’s a fifth element. One that upsets the natural order, causes you to have to rewrite entire chapters and enables you to surprise yourself with what they actually do:
Spirit is what happens when you take all the above and blend them, letting the character “live” as they see fit. It’s where the voodoo of creation happens, Up till this point you can write the biography of elsewhere. Breathing the life of Spirit into your Character lets you go on an adventure with them, That excitement will transfer into your work, Letting your Characters live in the minds of your reader, and in your own as an author.
When you release your Characters, and let them live…
…Anything is possible.
Make your Magic Happen.