One of the first questions I ask students is; what do you remember most about your favorite books?
I always know that at least 99 % are going to tell me about a character they fell in love with, cheered for, and turned the pages just to see what happened to them.
Don’t get me wrong, a story’s plot is important but if you have flat characters that readers don’t care about, the best plot in the world isn’t going to excite them or save your story.
I’ve always believed that characters make or break a book…I feel that way about TV shows too. Create great ones that pull the reader in straight away and you’ve not only hooked them, but they might even forgive you for lots of other writing sins you might commit.
If weak characters have been your Achilles heel then maybe it’s because you don’t know them well enough before or during the story writing process. If you don’t know them then you can’t expect your reader to know them.
Sometimes I have a character all worked out before I write while other times they sort of take shape as the story progresses. One even surprised me when I figured out he was taking ballroom dancing lessons. He was the least likely character I would have connected with that pursuit but as I delved more into the plot and his character, it was something he ‘told’ me he loved.
What if it’s not that straight forward and you’re writing or wanting to start writing and you think but I have no idea who the character is?
Something I recommend (and this is an exercise from my writing great characters book and workshop), is to sit down and pretend you’re a journalist and you’ve been given the assignment of profiling your character so you can write an article about him or her.
Think of the questions you’d ask them. For example, when did you get the idea to start your business or what did it feel like to be held hostage in the bank?
Once you have all the questions, then become the character and answer them how you think the character would respond.
If you still need to figure out who this person is then even write the article and see what takes shape.
I’d love to hear how you go about creating your characters so leave a comment.