Editor Roundtable: Bite Size Edition – Character Development

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Welcome to the Bite Size Edition of the Editor Roundtable Podcast. Here on the Roundtable we’re dedicated to helping you become a better writer, following the Story Grid method developed by Shawn Coyne. In these episodes we bring you some shorter solo articles and interviews on topics that interest us as writers. 

In this episode, Valerie Francis and Leslie Watts discuss character development.



A few weeks ago, we had a listener question about how to develop characters. That’s not a storytelling principle we’ve spent any time talking about here on the podcast, but it’s certainly something we’ve studied in our own practices. Our regular episodes are so packed with information that we only have a few minutes to answer questions, but we thought this one was worthy of further study.

The question, simply put, is how do we develop characters?

There are lots of character sheets floating around—Scrivener even has one. But those things are focused on the external and superficial aspects of a character. We need to focus on who the character is on the inside because the truth is that characters aren’t developed, they’re revealed. 

As Valerie began working on her novel, she developed a new type of character sheet to help her discover who her characters are. There are seven key points to consider when developing a character, and the first one is objects of desire. 

  • What does the character want and need?
  • Why do they want and need these things?
  • What’s standing in the way of them getting it? (In other words, what are the forces of antagonism at play?)

To get a copy of the full character sheet, sign up to Valerie’s inner circle, at valeriefrancis.ca/innercircle or connect with Leslie at Writership.com. Today we’ve focused on the theory of objects of desire in character development, but on our Un-Podcast, we’ll go further and apply these principles to a story so you can see how they really work. And you can access those episodes in the same locations, at valeriefrancis.ca/innercircle or Writership.com.

Join us next week for another episode in which we’ll all deepen our knowledge of story and level up our craft.

Want to keep reading? Check out another article from Story Grod on Character Development.

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About Leslie Watts

Leslie Watts is a certified Story Grid editor, writer, and podcaster. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember: from her sixth-grade magazine about cats to writing practice while drafting opinions for an appellate court judge. When the dust settled after her children were born, she launched Writership.com to help writers unearth the treasure in their manuscripts. She believes writers become better storytellers through practice, and that editors owe a duty of care to help writers with specific and supportive guidance to meet reader expectations and express their unique gifts in the world.

About Valerie Francis

Valerie Francis is a Certified Story Grid Editor and best-selling author of both women’s and children’s fiction. As a writer, she understands what it feels like to struggle with a manuscript that doesn’t work and has spent many late nights rewriting drafts in frustration. That all changed in January 2015 when she discovered The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know (then in blog form). Since then, she has been studying and applying Shawn Coyne’s methodology and knows from experience how well his technique works. In fact, that’s why she became a Certified Story Grid Editor—to help fellow writers learn to apply these editing principles and ultimately become better storytellers.
Her specialties include: love stories, thrillers, horror stories (especially gothic literature and stories with supernatural elements), mysteries and crime fiction, women’s fiction and middle grade stories. She works with novelists, screenwriters and playwrights.
Valerie co-hosted the Story Grid Editor Roundtable podcast where each week she, and four of her fellow Certified Story Grid Editors, studied how the Story Grid principles apply to film.
Valerie also co-hosted the Story Grid Writers’ Room podcast, and now hosts UP (the Un-Podcast) which focuses on applying the Story Grid method to prose, and helping writers put story theory into practice.