Developing Character: Preferences
Each character needs to have distinct likes and dislikes. Character preferences will help to develop:
- Personality - Background
- Need - Plot
and more. It will add some useful details to the world you are writing in while, also, keeping your characters relatable to the reader.
There are two kinds of preferences:
Basic preferences, eg
Favourite/least favourite food
Favourite/least favourite activity
More complex preferences, eg
The kind of people your character befriends (Harry chooses Ron over Malfoy)
The way the character wishes to live their life
The background of your character can be used to explain current preferences, eg
‘X was once bitten by a dog, so she prefers cats’.
Preferences are a huge part of one’s personality - they differentiate one person from another. They can also develop the way characters talk, act, react. Without personal preference, a character is almost a blank slate.
Think about your favourite things and how they differ from your best friend, and how they affect each person. Here is my example:
My favourite food: Pasta
My best friend’s favourite colour: Purple
My best friend’s favourite food: Cheese
My favourite colour: Red
I’m a terrible cook because pasta is so easy to cook and I love it. I struggle to care about learning to cook meals that don’t include pasta (true story). Also, I find pasta pretty boring without meat.
My best friend’s favourite food is cheese, which can be cooked and eaten in so many different ways. It has made him brilliant at cooking as he has experimented with cheese so much. Cheese is an easy thing to substitute for meat so he finds it easy being vegetarian.
My favourite colour is red, so my bedroom at my mums has red bed linen, a red sofa, red carpet, red curtains, red bin, red lamp…
My best friend’s favourite colour is purple, so he wears a lot of purple shirts ties.
See how much our preferences have affected who we are as people?
An interesting way of using a character’s preferences would be to incorporate it into the character’s need, or conflict. The need could be the thing the hero likes most, while the conflict could the sidekick’s needs or, even, the hero’s most disliked thing, getting in the way.
Having preferences play a part in character’s backgrounds, personalities, and needs will automatically develop the plot.
So how do you go about developing a character’s preferences?
You could simple write a checklist. Bearing in mind that you need to pay attention to the character’s upbringing and lifestyle for their preferences to be believable (their favourite food isn’t going to be caviar if they’re poor…)
Fill in this table and decide how each trait affects each character.
Effect on Character:
Does this feel kind of boring? It doesn’t say much about your character, does it? Why would the reader need to know this information?
Let’s try again:
Think of four character preferences that could be relevant to your plot. Is your character forced to do something they dislike? The answers will likely develop ideas of your character and your plot.