Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All about Your Characters, Part II


My last post focused on some common mistakes writers make when dealing with characters. Today I want to address positive character building and how successful characters can reel readers into your story.

Positive Character Building and How to Wow Your Audience
I’m betting that a great deal of you have read and loved one book series or another. Those authors can partially base their success on great characters. While blockbuster plots captivate audiences, what really captivates readers over the course of several books is the character. What sticky situation will they find themselves in? How are they going to handle this situation? We ultimately thrive reading about the perceptive detective or the sassy vampire hunter. They push the barrier; they are larger than life.

You too can write such characters. There are some common ways to make all characters, regardless of their varying personalities, a little more interesting.

Caricatures
All characters can be made stronger if you caricaturize their personalities. It may sound strange, but in the world of fiction, personalities come across as only a shadow of their real world equivalent. Think about it. Characters “snicker,” “gasp,” “yell,” and “sob” fairly regularly throughout the book. If real people did these on a fairly regular basis, they’d come off as a bit strange. However, in the world of fiction, some of these actions are vital to convey the character’s emotional state. Making your characters more extreme versions of themselves will clarify their viewpoint and allow readers the excitement of predicting how they will react—and the more readers think about your book, the better.

Characters and Goals
Make sure your characters are goal-oriented at all times. At the beginning of any good story, a character has or develops plot-driven goals. These goals will allow your main character to push the plot forward. Is your main character searching for a missing woman? If so, then that character should predominately spend his/her time pursuing this goal.

Creating goal driven characters has two additional effects. First, it will strengthen your character since goal-driven characters pursue action and conflict. Second, it will indicate where needless scenes are located. A needless scene is filler, and while having some of these are okay, if you begin to notice a significant number of needless scenes, this will conveniently indicate what scenes should be shortened or eliminated.

Conclusion

Why Strong Characters are Ultimately Loveable Characters
Simply put, it is because we want to be like them. Strong characters are usually more courageous than us, usually more outrageous than us, and they usually find themselves living a more fast-paced life than us. We read to escape. So making your characters more driven and more extreme will increase our own enjoyment.

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services
415.745.1764

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