View Full Version : Developing characters *after* First Draft?

June 22nd, 2020, 02:14 PM
I'm writing my first draft, not worrying about polish; just getting it on paper.

Some of my characters have some level of development in that we have a sense of who they are as people, why they're important. Others are placeholders. In some cases, their names are "X," "Y," "Z."

Is it too late to develop the characters? Should I have done this - however crudely - while writing first draft, or can I do that during subsequent drafts? Is there danger that the story is too well-formed to allow space for as-yet-unwritten characters?

Or is this how first drafts go? The basic pieces written, flesh and dimension to be added as you go?

Thank you

June 22nd, 2020, 04:02 PM
It's never too late to do anything. It's your story. Do what you want with it. Get the story down, then fix it in revision. Completely change it if you want. It's up to you.

June 22nd, 2020, 07:58 PM
I don't really develop much till after my first draft, either, including characters. I just write as sloppily as possible (no one will read my first draft, anyway), and just get the words down. Then when I get to the second draft, that's when I start to care about the literary elements.

June 22nd, 2020, 08:06 PM
Nobody will be able to tell you the 'right' way to do this because everyone has their own 'right' way. Sad but true. However, what this means is that it isn't too late! You've got more to go on after the first draft but it still seems to leave you a lot to do and if the characters develop in some mindbending way that changes the story then...well, writing is rewriting anyway. Do what you've got to do to get it done.

June 22nd, 2020, 08:33 PM
Unlike most, I don't write my first draft sloppily because (for me) it makes the editing process take longer. I used to do it that way though, but as my plotting got better tightening the first draft got easier. To handle this issue, I have a separate document describing the characters: name, age, appearance, their unique phrasing, mannerisms, and arc. I also keep a spread sheet of the chapters auxiliary characters enter and leave. AND (don't hate me... I'm a compulsive list maker and organizer), the spread sheets also tracks chapter, section, and novel word count as I go.

On average, it takes me three to four months to complete the first draft.

That said - my plotting does NOT set the first draft in stone. New characters often show up and old ones misbehave - insert herding cats analogy - these changes are never drastic though and always improve the story.

June 24th, 2020, 04:09 AM
I think it would be fine to add in characterisation details later, including their way of speaking etc. But in what they're actually saying and doing, is the characterisation evident?

July 1st, 2020, 11:23 AM
You really should read the history of the first Star Wars trilogy. I may be off because it's been a while, but in the first draft it was something along the lines of Luke Starkiller being an older military veteran, a retired general I think, and Darth Vader was an imperial officer of no importance and a normal human, not a wheezing cyborg of death. It's never too late to develop characters. Most of my characters aren't fully fleshed out to start with by any means.

Here's another tip to help with character development. Think up a situation, even if it doesn't make it into the story, and write your characters into it. See what they do, how they react, get to know them as characters and you'll have a better understanding of them as fictional people. After all no one will ever know these characters better than you.

July 1st, 2020, 12:43 PM
I think as you continue to write drafts your characters will naturally adapt. So, if anything, starting off with too fixed an idea of who these characters are is likely to prove detrimental later on.

July 5th, 2020, 07:49 AM
You are free to develop them as you wish, in a way you are directing a play. You do need a few strong characters and others for fill ins.

It is strange but as a character is developed it is almost as if they have a life of their own, the story can build them, mould them and you are left deciding their direction.

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