Character Development and the Texture of Ice Cream

Developing new characters is fun. It’s almost an addiction. The first question to be asked is what texture a character prefers in ice cream. I know you know what I mean: what experience does their tongue prefer? What color do their tastebuds see?

Their answer determines so much of who they are.

The next set of questions make up what I call SPEMPARFS, an acronym that stands for Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, Mental, Psychological, Artistic, Romantic, Financial, and Social. The question is, “What is this character like (then fill in the blank–spiritually, physically, etc.)?”

The most fascinating aspect of character development is that it forces you to scrutinize the living crap out of yourself. Like, I doubt many other people in the world are as self-aware as novel writers.

I’ve learned that there’s not one simple phrase that sums me up in any of the SPEMPARFS. For example, socially, I love being around others, meeting new people, hearing their stories, discovering our similarities and exploring our differences. I also hate people, want to be left alone, attribute my road rage to other’s stupidity, and often curse people under my breath. And guess what? It all exists within me at the same time. It doesn’t depend on the day or the situation. I feel all of it, fully, all at once, all the time.

It needs to be the same with characters if they’re to truly reach an audience. A character may love their spouse with all their heart, and also hate them with all their heart. All at once, all the time. This can create some amazing storytelling.

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