Character Development: Lady Macbeth, Cristina Yang and Anastasia Steele

When I think about Lady Macbeth, Cristina Yang and Anastasia Steele, I wish I had something profound, insightful, and enlightening to say about character development. But it’s a winding road that’s freaking rocky and tough as all get out to wade through. Just ask my underdeveloped character Nikki in my current WIP. Okay, then again, let’s not. It’s only the first draft:)…

This past Saturday at the WRW-DC  meeting, Cathy Maxwell, New York Times Best Selling romance author and all around fabulous gal, conducted a workshop that started with a discussion on Voice. She hit on a number of topics during her talk, but when she shared a story about an author who told her she (the author) wasn’t going to take any more classes on character development it resonated. Cathy’s a theatre and dance undergrad, like moi, and she said the author’s statement struck her as not making a lot of sense (paraphrasing here). She added that Al Pacino still takes classes on character development. Actors are constantly working on character development. The take away – as authors, we should always be working on character development, too. No matter where we are in our career.

So I was thinking about actors and some of those female characters in particular who resonate (for me) – off the screen and from beyond the footlights. As authors, we strive to create characters that are non-stereotypical, more vibrant, more in the category of jumping off the page. To accomplish this, I think one area to focus on is belief systems — what do are characters believe, and then challenge that belief with actions, choices, tragedy, comedy, great romance, and sex.

Here’s where I’m going…

Lady Macbeth – She made choices, tough, stupid, tragic, specific choices not because she was in love, but because of the way she loved. Her choices on the surface were about power. But what was her belief system, and how did the author keep throwing obstacles in her way until her inner conflict led her to the guilt-ridden speech “Out, damned spot”, and ultimately suicide? I know it’s not a romance, but we’re talking about characters, strong, vibrant characters.

Cristina Yang – Grey’s Anatomy – I love this character – how she is written and portrayed. In my humble opinion, Cristina Yang is the Lady Macbeth of Seattle Grace. If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, check out the consistency you’ll find in this character’s choices. She is brilliant, excellent at what she does, but she craves love, and falls desperately in love with powerful, extraordinary men – who are desperately flawed. She demands that they are brilliant first, lovers second. Okay, she hasn’t changed a lot over the years – it is TV, but there have been moments.

Anastasia Grey – 50 Shades of Grey – I will admit I haven’t finished reading this book, but I’m working on it, along with the other 50 things I’m working on each day. But when the story begins Ana believes she is one type of woman. Period. The story goes on to prove to her she is more or less (according to your opinion of the book:) a very different woman, who discovers through a sexual journey with Mr. Grey her true character.

I write dark and twisty stories so these characters intrigue me. What do you think about character development? What’s your biggest challenge when creating a new character, or what do you relish when you’re reading a book and the character jumps off the page? Just wondering because Nikki is getting impatient…:).