‘Character Development’ is a phrase that we throw around a lot at Heart Full Of Books, because the phrase ‘good character development’ (or something along the same lines but with a far more exited tone) is the accolade of all accolades in a review!
Everyone has an idea on what character development is, but when we talk about it in our reviews we don’t mean the act of creating a character, we mean the process of putting a character through situations that change the way the character thinks or feels. Character development can sometimes be pinpointed to an exact moment, other times it’s a series of events that the protagonist reacts to in small ways, but by the end of the novel their outlook may have changed, resulting in a happy ending.
Truthfully, it’s a hard thing to define, and sometimes it can be a hard thing to notice. The more you read the easier it is to assess characters against one another. As readers we create our own scales of character development that relate to characters we know have had some pretty excellent CD. Personally, I look at Morgan Matson’s novels. Emily from Since You’ve Been Gone, being a perfect example, when I read a contemporary I think, “did this character change as much as Emily did?” but I should probably clarify that even if characters don’t change in the same ways, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a change! I can’t compare Emily to Yelena from Poison Study because they’re in different worlds and genres. What’s character development from Emily’s caterpillar to butterfly metamorphosis in regards to confidence, isn’t the same as Yelena’s fight against the patriarchy and her coming to terms with her magical abilities. But most importantly both character went though a palpable change! Character development is simply overcoming flaws and weaknesses – or at least coming to terms with them *cough* self acceptance *cough*
In our opinion, what makes character development go from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ is if the character’s CD makes the reader think about themselves. If a novel makes me think about who I am as a ‘character’ and if I change as a result of the protagonist’s CD then that’s even better! I love being able to come away from a story and apply what the character has learned to my own life, it’s pretty excellent.
We like to mention and comment on character development as much as we can in our reviews, and hope to emulate our favourite authors ways of including CD in our own writing. Let’s just say if we say ‘excellent’ and character development in the same sentence that book has made it to the favourite list.