The Right Character Development

When an author decides on the next novel, he/she needs to decide what is the most important, the character or the world the story is set in.

If the character is the most important, than the plot and world the story is set in should support the character. If the world is the most important, then the character and plot should support that world. If both are important, then there needs to be a balance between the two so one does not overshadow the other.

Ken Follett began with a character, Henry Faber, in his novel Eye of the Needle. He’s smart, determined and kills without mercy. Follett sets him in WW ll as a Nazi spy. He has information Hitler needs to defeat Britain. The information is too important to transmit. He decides to leave Brittan and return to Germany.

The British MI6 knew there was a leak. They set a trap to flush out the spy. But Faber is too crafty. MI6 is unable to capture him.

We see him at his worse. He kills without remorse. We see how he handles himself in the most dangerous situation. Seemingly nothing and no one stops him. When plans change, he quickly redirects his steps without changing the goal of leaving the country. By the middle of the book, we know who Faber is and how he reacts in every situation.

Faber steels a small boat and plans to sail it to his submarine contact. But a storm redirects him to Storm Island where he meets Lucy. They become lovers. Sleeping with a marred woman isn’t new for Faber, falling in love is.

When Lucy learns who he is, she becomes afraid of him, but her loyalty as a Britain citizen overrides her fears. She tries to stop him.

This man is a ruthless murder. She’s a lonely housewife with no fighting skills. She should be easy to deal with. But he can’t defend himself against the woman he loves. She kills him before he can escape the island.

That’s what the novel is about, it’s a character study of how love can change the nature of the most harden villain.

A two dimensional character would never work here, but this same in depth of character development would never work in the movie Men in Black.

The main story here is not the Men in Black agents, but the aliens and their underground world.

If the writer took the time to develop the characters of Agent K and Agent J, like Follett does, it would be too much and it would take away from their comic personality. Instead, he creates a world where aliens live without humanity knowing they exist. He develops the MIB Agency that process aliens coming to Earth, polices the degenerates, and manages all human-alien contact.

The characters are funny because they’re two-dimensional. They don’t lack character development, but are enhanced by the lack of it.

In Harry Potter, JK Rowling balances the world she has created with the characters living in it.

We all know what it’s like to go to school, seen movies and read novel about it. Mostly, we’ve lived it. We know what elementary and high school are like.

But what’s school like for a wizards and witches? They go to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

What are the tests like? One must successfully change a rat into a goblet.

How does one get to their dorms? By climbing stairs that move and change directions.

How do they communicate with their families? They use owls or a fireplace.

Over the years, Harry and his friends grow up. We see them solve mysteries, skip class, be in two places at once, fall in love, be defeated, be victories, and move in time.

Harry and his friends would not have been as interesting if they’d been two-dimensional. At the same time, Rowling didn’t go into in depth character studies. It would have been too much and unnecessary. She balanced the characters in the world of magic.

No one character development is right for every plot. It depends on what the author wants to accomplish. In class, we’re taught that a character must change and grow, but sometimes a shallow character is just right for the storyline.

Character development, or the lack there of, must be what’s best for the character and plot, not rules.