My Character Development Secret

Writers need to work out the goals, motivations, and conflict that their main characters will face, so that they build interesting, intriguing story people to read about.

In working these up for my second book in the Words of Power series, I came across a shorthand technique for writing down these character components that is working well for me

I substitue these words for Goal, Motivation and Conflict:

Goal – Wants
Motivation – Because
Conflict – But

Here’s how it plays out:

My main character, Jane Doe WANTS to get a new job BECAUSE she feels like her current work is meaningless BUT her current job pays really well, her dad is sick and needs her financial support, and meaningful jobs are scarce.

This gives me her goal – a new job, her motivation – her work feels meaningless, and the conflicts standing in the way of her goal – sick dad, lots of bills.

I then take it a step further and add in the character’s first steps in achieving her goal by adding a SO into the middle of my sentence.

My main character, Jane Doe WANTS to get a new job BECAUSE she feels like her current work is meaningless SO she starts begins to search job listings BUT her current job pays really well, her dad is sick and needs her financial support, and meaningful jobs are scarce.

By adding the SO in there, I’ve ensured that I don’t have a passive character at the start of the story. She is taking some kind of action to meet her goal, even if it doesn’t work out for her.

This method gives me an easy way to figure out what each character wants, why they want it, what their first step is in achieving the goal and how many obstacles are standing in their way that goal.

What methods do you use for developing your characters?