Character Development – Part II

Okay! We’re through week one and into week two. For week two’s discussion about Character Development, I would like to concentrate on the core problem, that internal conflict of your character carries with her.

Core Problems? I hear you ask! Yes. Those deep-seated issues the character has carried with her into adulthood from a very young point in her life. Remember also, that a core issue can have grown in a character from the time the problem occurred, say five or six years old, to the “now” point in her life… what’s happening at the moment in the story. So, if your character hasn’t quite reached adulthood, maybe she’s only ten years old when the story begins, those core problems have already happened and continue to molder within her psyche.

Core problems are serious psychologically altering events that stay with the character until well after the event has occurred.


  • A child was forced to kiss her grandfather’s head while her grandfather lay cold and stiff in his coffin at the funeral, in front of a packed funeral home,
  • A child has been sexually-abused by a close friend or family member,
  • A child nearly drowned,
  • A child nearly fell to his death off of a steep embankment

You get what I mean. All of these issues, happening at a young age (even at a not-so-young age), have the capacity of shaking the very essence of that person, of creating some long-lasting after effect and fear of something that reveals itself much later in life and certainly reveals itself within the story you’re telling. These problems create some odd manifestation for the character, one the character either comes to understand or one the character overcomes. (In literary fiction sometimes the character does not understand the problem manifesting itself but in these cases, the reader should ALWAYS understand the manifestation). These problems should be central to the character’s ongoing problem at the moment. For instance, if a child (your character) sees her mother acting promiscuous shortly after the death of her beloved father, the child might mature into a woman who, (1) is a loner, (2) is embarrassed by her mother, and (3) distrusts men.

When considering internal problems (yes, there might be more than one), you must always consider the external conflict that will occur in your character’s story. They must somehow relate to one another.

Such manifestations might include, a dread hatred of funerals, a total distrust of people and failure to become intimate with others, fear of water, fear of high places.

Of course, some characters, may be heroic types, they may turn their problems around to the point they try to overcome all fears, or, these fears manifest themselves in striking acts of bravery.

As writers, after we understand our character’s CORE PROBLEM(S), we can use them to our benefit. We can make our characters neurotic or overly courageous types of people.

Hey! Now, here’s an idea: you may just want to utilize the information within this posting for your assignment on Assignment Day (Thursdays, right here!).

And, remember, novel structure and format will be discussed on Mondays.

Thanks for reading and, again, if you have questions, post a comment! I will respond within 24 hours. -Susan Wingate.

Leave a Comment