Do you have a list of memorable characters from novels you’ve encountered? What made them stick in your mind over the months and years? Even noteworthy villains have one thing in common: personality. Writers, for the most part, analyze the motivation, back story, and worldview of their characters. An abundance of factors determine why each behaves the way she does, and we as writers should know them intimately.
Cut to the chase—know what and why your characters move the plot in a specific direction. Even if the written back story might not be included in your final product, describing what experiences and lifestyle, upbringing, sibling and parental influences will be helpful in developing personalities and subsequently, plot. Know each one well.
Who do you remember from your personal reading?
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by Meg Dowell Everyone wants to be a writer. Not just any kind of writer, either. A successful writer. Everyone wants their name on the New York Times bestseller list. Everyone wants to add “author” to their Twitter bio. Everyone wants to take what they enjoy doing and make a career out of it.
As writers, we want ours to be a great story— one that drags the reader into our characters and their conflicts. To be great we have to provide tension and conflict with characters that stir emotions in our readers. If it were easy, everyone would be writing a novel—wait, everyone IS writing one. Making ours stand out, get recommended as a great read, and have an audience beyond family members and close friends requires something special. For me, the characters are the draw.
Vivid characters are paramount. They must be relatable. Whether hero or villain, your reader must have an emotional connection regardless of being attracted or repulsed or somewhere on the continuum. Have you read books that leave you distracted? Are the characters flat? I am one who doesn’t get hooked if the characters aren’t meaningful to me. Even a strong narrative without substantive characterization leaves me passionless.
Human drama is all around. Motivators for human behavior have been consistent throughout time: jealousy, greed, ego, fear, and desire, for example. Whatever the conflicts are in your work, they must propel your characters with individual personalities, back stories and temperaments to make choices — oh, yes, the ubiquitous decisions must ring true regardless of the setting.
But be prepared for your characters to insert themselves into the narrative and sometimes change your original direction. That event is both strange and awesome.
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