Story Development /
Character Relationships
When we initially looked at what
makes a bad story the first thing
that we mentioned was too many
characters. Writing too many people
into the story is a common mistake
and it can confuse and
irritate the reader.
By doing this you risk the reader
losing interest and abandoning the
story altogether. This is completely at
odds with your aim to ‘keep the
reader reading.’
So how many characters should
you have in your short story? You
should have a minimum of one and a
maximum of three. These include
primary and secondary characters
but not characters that appear briefly.
Let’s take a minute to look at the
three types of characters that may
already be appearing in your story.
Primary – these are your main
characters and the ones around
which the story will revolve.
Secondary – those who appear
frequently but are not as important as
your main characters.
Tertiary - those who appear once or
twice for a specific, limited purpose.
An example of a tertiary character
would be your main character’s mum,
whom he greets on the way out of his
front door in the first paragraph; or the
shopkeeper who sells the spray paint
to him before he meets his friends.
At this stage in your story you
should already be able to attribute
the above character types. You have
your introduction written and your
story mapped out to the point that
you should be seeing your plan
working out in your writing. You
know where you are
going with this.
But have you thought about how
to reach the end? How to get
your characters there without
overwriting or over-explaining?
Have you thought about the
relationship between your characters
and how that relationship can be
used to move the story on?
At this point, as you work your way
through, you might surprise yourself
with where the story takes you. You
know your characters so well that you
can see them in your mind as you write.
From your profiling you even know
what their personalities are like and
that should be transferring onto the
page. What you also need to
concentrate on, however, is
personalities coming together and
the correct portrayal of your
characters and their
When you have these things clear in
your mind, when you know how they
will or will not work, then you will be
able to get that across.
Your characters must work together
and they must be used to progress the
story through a combination of
incidents, dialogue and description.
You can use your characters to
create comedy or drama. You can set
the scene with petrified conversation or
you can invoke emotion with powerful
words and actions.
As previously mentioned, you want
your readers to care about the
characters but they won’t if they cannot
connect with them.
So, think about your main characters
in terms of their relationship. Are they
married? Are they going out? Are they
best friends? Are they enemies?
Are they long-lost relatives?
Or are they strangers?
Now think on your theme…
What had you chosen? What’s your
storyline? And how are these
characters being used to encourage
that storyline along and make it the
irresistible read you want it to be?
Is everything building up to one
explosive moment
or are you revealing
all in a gentle,
calculated way?
And as you are writing,
think on this…
What reason have you given,
or will you give, for your
reader to care?
Sorry, but you do not have permission to view this content.