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A Lesson Learned From the Latest Season of The Walking Dead: Character Development

posted Jan 20, 2017, 8:06 AM by Ben Kreucher
This season on The Walking Dead started with a bang...or rather a splatter. We lost some pretty long standing characters. Characters whose deaths left big impressions on the remaining Alexandrians. Unfortunately, that means that it also left large shoes to fill as far as the heavy lifting of emotions and plot.

Some of the remaining characters just haven't gotten as much screen time as others. Therefore, we, as the audience, aren't as connected with them. Their current struggles and potential deaths aren't looming in the back of our minds with any sort of dread or urgency. One character, I forgot was still alive on the show until he turned up in a later episode. 

Perhaps I'm just weary from the way the show has run us through the emotional ringer, but I don't think that's it. I honestly feel that the characters that remain (minus a select few) just don't have the weight to drag us along with them. They can. First, however, we need to learn more about them. Once we get to know them over the course of a half-season or so, they can die with appropriate gravitas.

That's why it's important to invest time and emotion into your characters. You want your readers to relate to the characters, to know them like they know their best friends, and to want them to succeed. Without that, a book, movie, show, or play will fall flat. Any story without a connection to the audience can't succeed (with, probably a few exceptions).

Your narrative, and mine, needs to draw the reader in and envelope them in the plot. We need to know why bad things are happening to this character or, at least, yearn to solve the riddle. Without a character to root for or against, the plot becomes stiff and the reader tunes out. 

With a well-developed cast of characters, killing off one or two (or a dozen, like Game of Thrones) isn't a problem. You'll still have plenty of people to continue to develop and run alongside. Without such a cast, however, readers are more likely to set aside your story for one with more engaging protagonists and antagonists.
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