Characters move us. Books that move us our memorable.
The most important for any story is character. Even if your world building is great, it is all for nothing if there isn’t a relatable character to experience it. Plot twist? Immaterial without a character.
Write your characters as…
It may seem consistent and inconstant are opposites, I will explain this paradox.
A Character in fiction is the most realistic part of the fiction. The reason why fiction is important in society–despite neighsayers–is because Characters teach us how to navigate complex relationships. As the Character progresses through the story, the growth or failure or their relationships will bring us joy or sadness.
Above all, Characters teach us we are not alone.
Why do you like your friends? Or anyone for that matter. Because we see a little bit of ourselves in them. They are figuratively kin, family.
Always add a passion to your character. What your character loves will make the audience love them. This step is often mistaken as an I want song or some declaration of desire. Make your characters love and we will love your characters.
Be precise with love. Nobody wants to die, but everyone doesn’t want to die for different reasons. Generalities will not work to generate empathy. Everyone wants to be rich, everyone wants to be loved, everyone wants to live: these aren’t good enough.
Make the love visualize-able. If you can’t see it, it is too general.
Now that your Character loves something or someone, make sure the conflict tries to take that away from them.
If your character, being a hockey fan, can’t careless about the basketball season, you have chosen the wrong character for your basketball underdog story.
And now they are invested, they take steps to achieve their goals. The goals because obvious to the reader because the passion of the character is shown. They swoon at the sight of their lover, they growl at a rival team winning, and (once proactive) work diligently to make their precise dream real.
And and now they are proactive, they will make mistakes. There are plenty of ways to make mistakes but some good examples are, hurt those they love for work, succumb to addiction, or just done-and-done-goof-up.
Character consistency makes your reader able to predict what will happen next. Readers take immense joy in predicting the plot, whether the don’t-go-in-there horror, or, are-they-going-to-kiss joy. All of it. Fair game.
This seems to be at odds with consistent, but it is not. The pain of failure causes people to change. Developing a character arc that plunges them into their personal hell is necessary for powerful story telling.
The keys to credible character change are, 1) flaws are displayed, 2) they goof up big time, 3) they cannot keep living in the same way.
Tools for Strong Characters
What follows is a list of 2 tools that previous authors have used to make characters work. These tools may or may not apply to the main character.
Make your character new to the world and eager to learn. These
saps characters are often accompanied by a mentor.
As an added bonus, the audience gets to learn the rules of your magic system at the same time as your hero.
Examples? Every, every, animated film with a big eyed heroine with a big forehead is a wide-eyed wonder. They are designed with big foreheads because all they do in the story is be surprised–all of the time.
Competence is admired. Use this to your advantage. If you want to write a jerk character, getting the audience to like them is easy. Make them the best wizard [insert profession here] in the world.
It worked for Han Solo.
This is so powerful even the spiritless husks of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes are watchable–if only just– but the sheer dint of their skill. To date: no good Sherlock films or series, and one good James Bond film. Skyfall. He deals with his tapping out in that film.
Photo Credit: John Evjen