In any literary work, the characters drive the story. If readers aren't engaged with those who the stories revolve around, are they likely to continue reading? Of course, the opposite is equally true: compelling characters draw us in and hold our attention. We need to see how the events in the story will change them, for better or worse, and how they labour to influence their circumstances by transforming the people around them - or the very world in which they exist.
So, how do you develop strong and engaging characters? Three important ways:
- Balance. Ensure they all have flaws as well as virtues. A perfect person has no room for growth. We connect better with flawed people because we can identify. We have doubts about their capabilities or what they might choose to do, which builds suspense. We root for them or rail against them. All characters – protagonist, antagonist or just along for the ride – should have their good and poor qualities, and they should impact the story in some way. Ensure the characters compliment or contrast each other.
- Consistency. Each character grows and changes on a consecutive path. If they have old issues they haven't worked through, ensure they aren't forgotten when a triggering moment arises. If they have had a moment of enlightenment, don't have them regressing in the following scene. All romantic connections should develop through a series of exchanges, not just mashing people together for the sake of it. Each character has a voice; get comfortable with it, and let it come through when they move, speak, act.
- Familiarity. Get to know these folks. Find out what makes them tick. What do they want? What drives them? Where did they come from and where are they going? Your reader is stuck with these people for the duration of a whole book, and they should get familiar with them through the turning of pages. Some characters may be loveable, others you may love to hate. Everyone has their favourites, and some won't make it to the ending. By getting to know these characters, they become memorable, and the reader will feel connected to them. The better you know them, the better you can write about them.
Your characters should become as real as your friends, neighbours, co-workers. Ask your characters questions, ferret out their quirks, learn their secrets.
Then, write it all down for the world to see.
Written by Astra Crompton, FriesenPress Author Account Manager
Edited by Brian Cliffen, FriesenPress Marketing Coordinator
Image c/o Shutterstock