More character development

What is the difference between a novel and a short story: the development of character…the characters change in some way. The novel I am writing will take place when my main character is 17 years old. Through a series of flashbacks, the reader will get insight into various events from the protagonist’s past. The main character has no idea of who she is or of her heritage, but she learns this throughout the novel – in this way, she is changed: she learns who she is, she accepts and steps into this knowledge.

So far, my novel has a handful of characters, about 20 plot points and a number of written scenes, but I have more questions than answers about the story. There are a few key questions that I need answers to, like: who is the main character’s father, why was she abandoned as a child, why does her father come looking for her, what has happened to her mother? And: what do I know about the antagonist, how is he linked to the main character’s past, how does this relate to the past of the main character’s family? Also: does the main character’s love interest remain loyal to her or is she betrayed, are the ideas too dark, too heavy, is the outcome all doom and gloom, and if they are, is this a problem?

Do I need to answer all of these questions now? Or will they become more apparent as I write?

Feet in chairI continue to work on the plot for the novel, but now is the time for a spot of character development: Protagonist – write a passage in which she breaks her toe and the Dr discovers her webbed feet. How does she cope with pain? How does she cope with being exposed and vulnerable?

Activity: I knew I’d done some serious damage. Pain shot up my leg every step I took. I am not usually careless, and rarely clumsy. By the time I got to my room I could barely take my shoe off, my foot was that swollen. I knew I should keep it elevated, but there was work to be done, so instead I chewed on some (some sort of anesthetic plant??) and kept going, bare footed. I hoped Eleanor wouldn’t need me for the rest of the night and no one ever came to visit me, so I wasn’t afraid of being seen with no footwear.

I didn’t want anyone to fuss over me, and I certainly didn’t want the doctor anywhere near my feet, so that night, before I went to bed, I dressed my foot with (some sort of poultice for reducing swelling), hoping I had just bruised it rather than broken, as I suspected.

Somehow, despite the pain, I managed to fall into a deep sleep and only woke when the chambermaid came banging on my door.

I never overslept, but I guess my body just needed some rest. When the maid saw my swollen foot poking out, black and blue from beneath my gown she gasped, “Annabella, what have you done? I’ll call for the doctor.” And she swept off disappearing around a corner before I could beg her not to get the doctor.

‘Right’, I thought, ‘I’ll just get dressed and tell him I’m fine.’

old-shoeBut no matter how hard I pushed and shoved, biting my lip from pain, I couldn’t get my damn foot into a shoe!

“Annabella, take that stocking off and show me your foot!” he demanded, despite me telling him it was nothing, a mild sprain.

There was no way around it. I lay back on my bed as he examined my foot.

“Mmm, you never cease to be of interest Annabella.” He said, pulling each of my toes apart. “And what about the other foot?”

“There’s nothing wrong with my other foot.” I said in a tone that I hoped would dissuade him for examining that too.

“No child, but is that as a duck’s foot also? Is it webbed?”

“No,” I lied. I was already curiosity enough without anyone knowing I had webbed toes, especially the doctor.

“Well, we can soon fix this. A bleeding for the swelling and I’ll snip through those webs and have you back on your feet in no time.”

“No!” I demanded. I can heal myself. I have a poultice for the swelling and just need to stay off the foot. The webbing has never caused problems.”

“Off your feet? How do you propose you do that? You have work to do child. I’ll have you back on your feet within the hour.” He insisted, but I have a reputation for being stubborn where the doctor is concerned and I wasn’t going to let that butcher near me with any of his ‘instruments’.

“I’m sure the Princess will manage without me for a day. I’m sure she will understand.”

“Very well,” he sighed, heaving his great shoulders down. He seemed resigned to my stubbornness and I almost felt sorry for him. Perhaps I had worn down his resolve to hate me after all.


As usual with my writing activities, you can see I haven’t self-edited – I just get the ideas down. You can give this a go with your own characters…how do they react to breaking their toe?

Photo credit: legs

Photo credit: shoe

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