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…:).


11 thoughts on “Character Development: Lady Macbeth, Cristina Yang and Anastasia Steele

  1. Great post, Denny! I also studied dance and theater. I remember all those acting exercises about developing your character. What is your character’s favorite color? Word? Noise? Fashion choices? What was she doing right before this scene? What does she want to do right after this scene?

    I have a very basic sheet I use with some of my main characters that asks all those questions. I may or may not use that info in the actual story but I like to know for myself. I ask things like favorite color, car, education level, bra size (hello, we right romance), nicknames, etc.

    1. I like that approach. Funny, so far all of my characters are all about the nick names. Nikki is short for Nicolette, Casey is Cassandra, Max, is Maxine…well, except for my YA paranormal. Asia is just Asia. Okay, it’s late and I’m babbling:)…thanks for stopping by.

  2. I think about what kind of underwear my girl wears. I think about how she’d dance if someone was watching and how she’d do it if she was in her kitchen. I think about her favorite shoes, her favorite book and her guilty pleasure. All of those things help me to make a better character. Imagine your absolutely straight arrow corporate executive all business all the time. Then imagine she wears only red lace thong underwear. It totally gives you a little bit of something extra about that character.

    1. You make me smile. Yes, underwear would help me with a character’s mindset. I have been focused on Nikki’s clothes. She’s loves black, big shoes, sheer blouses, and black sports bras. She doesn’t wear panties, though. (It’s erotic romance. she’s always ready for some action:)…

  3. I don’t always plan how my characters grow. Sometimes they reveal themselves to me little by little during the process of writing the book. And occasionally, they surprise the hell out of me. That’s the fun of being the author, I guess. I I have learned to start with an outline to lay out the bones of the plot and the progression of the romance. But the characters make their own journey.

    1. I do call myself a plotter, which for some reason comes off as saying I leave character to last – or maybe I just don’t understand all of the nuances yet, but my characters sort of have to live in the plot for a while and then they start that revealing stuff:)…sometimes I just wish they’d be a little more speedy about it.

      1. Ha! Other than the part about calling yourself a plotter, I think I could have written the above quote. Great post, Denny! I always love learning more about character development. I’m with you (and Cathy Maxwell) — I think you can never learn enough.

  4. Great post Denny 🙂 For whatever reason, my heroine always comes to me in trouble. Because of that, I learn quickly what lesson she will have to learn. It can be jolting but seems to be the way I meet and then develop my characters.

    1. I don’t get them t6hat way, I must admit. I think that as a plotter – the situation comes first, and then the protagonist emerges once I drop her into the situation. Sometimes, she thinks she’s as happy as a lark when the story begins, or at least, confident with whatever decision she’s made, then she gets peeled – you know, like the onion. LOL…as I say, I like my stories dark and twisty.

  5. Hey Mermaid Diana – I feel like I haven’t seen you i forever. Good running into you here.

    I like how you describe the challenge of a character who grows – and in your case grows up. That’s some character development!

    Thanks so much for dropping by. It’s good hearing from you.

  6. Very interesting and thought provoking post, Denny. The one thing that’s great about character development is that each character is so unique. We may love or hate them, but at least they inspire something. One of my favorite characters is Scarlet O’Hara. My husband just doesn’t get that. He says she’s spoiled and self-centered. I guess he’s right. But, man, there’s just so much more to her than that. She’s like a southern-belle onion–lots and lots of layers. 🙂
    I think it’s important to remember a character’s flaws because people identify with those just as much as they admire a good trait. So, give them a few flaws or quirks. We all have them. It makes sense that our characters do as well.
    Off to bed. After all, “Tomorrow is another day…” and all that…

Comments are closed.