Creating Characters to Love
People! They can be so difficult ( says the devoted introvert). They are extremely complicated beings with their likes and dislikes, their personal history, and so many different factors that go into how they see the world, how they speak, even how they dress.
And yet, as writers of fiction, we are called upon to create characters who feel like they could be living, breathing, real people. They need to be different from each other, speak differently, behave in a manner that is unique to themselves.
Authors need to be mothers and fathers, or, if you prefer, gods to create such people. And we need to do this all on paper (or virtual paper, if you will) so that whoever is reading these characters that we’ve created will feel as if they’ve met and interacted with these people.
We need our readers to have feelings for our characters—be it love, hate, friendship, or disgust. We need our readers to understand and empathize with our characters and do so in a very short amount of time—that empathy needs to happen within the first page, the understanding within the first few chapters. If that doesn’t happen, the reader will close the book and not pick it up again because they won’t care. Why should readers read about people they feel nothing for? Characters who are boring or not relatable? They don’t! And that is where a lot of books fail.
I was recently reading through the book I am writing. I am two scenes away from the end and decided to go back and read what I’ve written before I give my hero and heroine their happily ever after.
I made it through the first third of the book before I stopped reading, wondering why I wasn’t loving it (if I don’t love my own writing, I figure no one else will either).
And then it hit me as I was writing in my journal just before falling asleep—my characters were not realistic enough. They were chasing after their goals with single minded determination (much in the same way I wrote the book—trying to get it finished as quickly as possible). That didn’t leave a lot of room for the reader to really get to know the characters. It didn’t give them time to explore who they are, what their flaws are, what they like, dislike, and how they view the world each in their own unique way.
I also happened to be wondering how I was going to lengthen the book by another ten to twenty thousand words so, I’m glad I stopped and read what I had written because, while I don’t think I’m going to have to change a lot of it, I am definitely going to have to add a lot of impressions about their world. I’m going to have to give the characters—and my reader—a little down time from the relentless pursuit of goals. (I also realized that I titled the book the Impulsive Innocent and my heroine was a determined, calculating sort of person and not impulsive at all. Obviously, that has to change.)
As I sit here, writing this blog, I know I’ve got a great deal of work ahead of me. I’ve got to not only discover who my characters are in a more in-depth way, but I’ve got to convey all that I discover in a few words here and there. Perhaps a sentence, but certainly no more than a paragraph, because I don’t want to bore my readers who want to know what happens next without lengthy story-stopping prose.
So, I am off to play god and create some wonderful, sympathetic characters my readers can fall in love with. Wish me luck!