Many years ago, I finished a young adult, paranormal-romance novel. It was my first completed manuscript and I was pretty new to that level of the writing world. When it came time to start editing, I felt a little lost. Unsure of how to tackle such a task, I turned to some writing books. In doing so, I found many instances where the importance of character development was brought up. I thought, “Duh. Of course there is character development in my story.” How could there not be?
Just to be safe, I decided I would map out some details about my character chapter by chapter. Boy, was I surprised. Suddenly, it dawned on me. While my character made changes and evolved, there were certain details that weren’t quite consistent. Now, before I continue I will admit that the novel I speak of wasn’t very good and I did ultimately end up shelving it after many rejections. My personal life got in the way of the book and now it’s in a drawer somewhere. Since then, I’ve worked on many other projects and I’ve taken my experience with tracking character development with me.
I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy novel and I absolutely adore my main character. Last week, I took a moment to consider my progress with her. As I contemplated a blog topic to cover for this week, I realized that my character development exercise is one that comes at a perfect time. What I’d like to share with you today is my emotion tracker for the characters in your W.I.P.!
Character emotions are an important part of character development. As you read a novel, you want a character who is progressing in one way or another. You definitely don’t want one who is happy one second and miserable the next for no good reason. Emotions can be unstable, but need to be monitored. For some writers, this may come naturally. Let’s just put it this way…it doesn’t hurt to check. I would rather double and triple check my manuscript before I find out that’s the reason an agent rejected me.
Here is my simple method for tracking character’s emotions chapter by chapter:
For each chapter, write one emotion that your character is feeling at the beginning, middle, and end. See what that progression looks like. Is your character consistently flat? Is your character too happy in dire situations?
This is a great exercise to build into your outlines too. I am currently finding it to be very helpful as I navigate my main character through a very tricky situation. I have found that I often make her overly anxious. She’s constantly in a state of panic or heartache. While it is fitting, now that I’ve tracked his pattern, I can expand her scope of emotions and play around with her inner thoughts in a different way.
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Until next time,