I was asked an anonymous question (on tumblr) that went like this: oh my goodness, your ocs are so developed and it seems like the worlds they’re from are so deep and developed! do you have any advice for others hoping to make characters like that? or have you written anything about that before?
Because I wanted to actually take some time to answer this properly, I created this post since I feel like my response would have been too long for an ask box.
Thus, here is my answer anon, I hope this helps or is interesting!
*NOTE (PLEASE READ): Below I have a few “philosophical/helpful” tips. This is not in any way a step-by-step guide, instead, these are ways to approach character-building and creation to get the best out of your characters and the worlds they inhabit. I think technical stuff can be learned a lot easier than a mind-set change. If you can adjust your thinking then technicalities, research, etc, are things that can come with time.
Be aware: I also switch between identifying with characters specifically and the worlds they live in. The reason? Because a good world, with good development and growth, is nothing without good characters and good characters are nothing without a good world. Many of the same rules apply in both cases.
BE INVESTED IN YOUR CREATIONS
I find that characters, no matter the story or world, are best done when you invest in your head-worlds and in the characters themselves. Creating characters is not something that is a half-assed, lazy business. If you want to create a world that one day you hope to sell, share, or publish you need to take this one thing to heart: your characters will only be as good as the time you put into them.
More often than not terrible character development or depth isn’t because you don’t know “how,” so much as you don’t want to “try.” This isn’t directed at you Anon specifically, but is a generalization of a lot of head-worlds and original stories I have seen, and even tried to create.
From personal experience there was a story I wanted to write but didn’t take the time to really try and think things through, to put effort into because I myself didn’t want to take that time—and as a result my characters and that world suffered, and in the end, I abandoned it.
This isn’t to say that every story with original characters need be long, expansive things (as mine are, or tend to be), but regardless of what type of story you create, or wish to propel, you need to take the time to engage with the characters you craft. You need to bring them to life, and you need to give it a lot of mental deliberation, maybe even some written deliberation if that helps.
The point stands that, regardless, you need to take the time to nurture your characters by giving the time they deserve. Good characters and worlds don’t come in an instant. You might have an epiphany, and might be a great one, but if you don’t dwell on that, morph it to fit the direction of your world and characters, it is a one-time thing, and might end up leaving you with more plot holes than are worth one great idea. Writing and world-crafting takes work and effort, and it takes patience. If you really want to make great characters—you have to put in the time to let them grow, and grow well.