There is no shortage of advice for fiction writers about characterization. You couldn’t throw a loop at a writers’ conference without catching a session about character development.
You’ll hear endless discussions comparing implicit and explicit characterization. You’ll hear about archetypes and character voice. Introduction and emergence. And other fancy ways of talking about the people you make up to populate your made-up stories.
The problem, as most successful writers will admit, is that characters have a way of saying and doing things you never intended. They routinely violate the commandments you laid down in your “character bible.” They’ll often thumb their noses at you and do what they please, whether you like it or not.
Sometimes, characters simply refuse to develop the way you planned.
When that happens, you know you’ve done your job.
That’s because characters that take the bit in their teeth and run off with you are more like real people than carefully crafted, methodically developed, perfectly polished props.
Come to think of it, when it comes to successful character development, being a writer is a lot like being a parent.