Category Archives: Characters

Good Characters Make them Care

There are so many things to say about a character’s creation and how it defines the quality of the novel. They are the reason there is a story, so they need to be interesting. But how do you know that you nailed it? When your readers care about your characters.

I’ve often listened to people saying that they like this or that book because it makes them feel things. The character was so sweet, they were scared in that part he was in danger or so happy for her. The character needs to raise some feelings in them. It needs to make them care.

Even the most exciting plot in the world can feel shallow to the reader if you can’t make them care.

What ignites that sparkle?

Most things come down to the question, “How would you feel?” In this case, what makes you care? What makes you feel something? Ultimately, what makes you keep reading? Of course, not everyone is the same, but you’ll immediately have a part of the audience covered this way.

What makes you relate to a person if you try to think about people instead of a character? Maybe they are someone you have known your whole life. You know every struggle, every victory, and every moment, good and bad. That creates a fantastic relationship. But you can’t tell the entire story of your character, right? It is boring, and it will make your reader impatient.

What makes your readers relate to a character?

Each one of us has a different life story and different experiences and feelings about it. So, your readers will not necessarily relate to those things. However, we all go through some similar situations. One way or another, they are part of our lives whether we want them to or not. Let’s start there.

You relate to a person not simply because of who they are or what they are doing, but primarily for what happens to them. So, it is not about the character but the situation. Choose a situation that most human beings can relate to. Then, make your character go through it in the first pages.

Show them the way

Everybody can relate to a sad story, to a bad situation that can happen to all of us. That will make the reader relate, but does it make them care? Not necessarily.

Readers need to be able to identify themselves with the situation, but they want more. Most people read to dream, to make things better, so your character has to make it through those difficult situations. It is interesting, and it gives them hope. We all like a story of resilience. It warms our hearts and makes us feel more powerful.

A resilient character who fights their way to victory is something the reader can relate to and aspire to. Your readers would like to live that life, to be that strong – because all of us, at some point, felt so helpless, and we don’t want to. At this point, there is no return – your reader wants to know what happens next.

We all like a hero

We all had bad moments. General situations that could happen to anyone will make your reader relate to the character, but do not stop there.

They want a hero. They want this character who is apparently like them, but who can solve problems and have an inspirational, out-of-the-ordinary life. The kind they would want to live in. They want magic and hope.

How to keep the interest in your readers

A writer’s biggest desire is for their readers to keep reading the story until the very last page. The scariest thing? Readers losing interest somewhere in the middle of it.

What can you do to make your readers come back to your story after they put the book down for some reason? How do you keep them interested?

Keep the interest

The most common advice is to use cliffhangers.

A cliffhanger is a way to end your scene, where your character, usually the protagonist, is facing some sort of life or death situation. Something really dramatic. Is that good? Sure, especially if you are writing an action-adventure novel. In that case, it is perfect. Yet…

If it’s not the case, you may need to rethink that option.

They need to care

A good story touches the readers. They care about the characters and what happens to them. This is your main concern: to make them care.

The most important thing to make your readers care is the character itself . Bring them to life; your characters need goals, a life story, a personality!

After you build the right character, you can end the scene with it in trouble. There are also rules here. You must think of the right kind of trouble – the one that makes the reader somehow worry about the character. You need them eager to know how the character will get rid of the issue.

No one cares if the laziest guy in the office is fired. However, if it’s someone who really makes an effort, or desperately needs their income, it’s more likely that your readers will turn the page to see what happens next. If you want to apply this idea to the villain, it is also possible. Imagine the lazy guy being promoted. Your readers will probably be furious and want to see how far he can go with it.

The character in question doesn’t need to be the protagonist. There are more characters in your book, and their depth is also a good quality mark for your readers. A perfect protagonist surrounded by a bunch of flat characters doesn’t make a good story.

Another way of keeping the interest is to end a scene with your point-of-view character making a decision that might go very badly. He’s facing a difficult situation and decides to take a risk. It has everything to go wrong but still… If it works, it will change your character’s life totally. That’s something your reader will want to know how it ends.

You are also a reader

I can’t get enough of this advice. I don’t know a single author that isn’t also an avid reader. It is crucial to learn and to understand what works.

In the end, the most important is the reader. So, if you still have any doubts about your choices, just put yourself into their shoes. What makes you turn the page?

The Villain: 4 tips for a memorable villain

The villain is a character of great importance in any story. For that reason, you must think about him carefully.

Your villain has to be credible to be memorable. As such, you should spend some time developing your villain before start writing the actual story.

Here you have some tips that might help you.

1. Motivation

Everyone has a goal, something they want, and that must apply to your villain as well.

Every action they will take has to help them, in some way, to get closer to that goal. At least, that is what the villain believes. It doesn’t need to be immediately evident to your reader, especially if you’re writing a mystery novel. Yet, keep in mind that, at some point, the villain’s choices need to make sense to those reading your story.

2. Justify their actions

Real people don’t think of themselves as villains. Our actions always make sense in our minds, and we have good reasons to act the way we do.

Remember that every time your villain takes a decision or chooses a course of action. Your villain has a purpose with every step he (or she) takes.

3. Personality

A plain character is not exciting or fun to read. With a plain villain, we can kill the story in the first few pages.

Your villain needs a life, people that make part of it, fears and hobbies, things they like and others they hate. Villains must be more than the evil goal they have in mind.

Besides, in real life, no one is entirely evil. A couple of positive qualities will enrich your character. It will make it more credible and interesting to your readers.

4. Avoid clichés

The erratic mad man might be fun to write, even read sometimes, but people are beginning to get tired of it. Surprise your readers and remember: if you want them to fear your villain, make it the most unexpected character of your story.

Unexpected

The best villain is the one with a background story, a life, a reason to be evil. Maybe the villain is not exactly a bad person; perhaps he is just hurt.

Think of your villain as a person with a story, feelings, fears, and goals. He is not his actions. The most humanized the villains are, the more realistic they become. Your readers will appreciate that.

No conflict, no story

The conflict is the center of any story. You have a conflict, and subsequently a story but NEVER, ever, the other way around.

When you’re thinking of writing a story, the first thing to think about is the conflict and your plot is to be built around it. If there is none if it seems not to be ideal for whatever you were imagining, then think again. You might not have a story there.

Usually, you have this sort of structure: you have a main character that has a goal, but there is something keeping him from reaching it, a problem to solve, then your character will take action to solve the aforementioned problem, usually other issues and difficulties will be showcased along the way (most provoked by his actions to solve the first one, the big one), then he solves the main problem and the story ends. Simple.

The “problem” might be something as simple as an argument, unrequited love or someone just trying to sabotage your character. It doesn’t need to be (but could very well be) a world-changing problem.

So, how to do it?

It’s actually quite simple and you don’t need to have a tremendous epiphany to start. Usually, when you’re thinking about a story, you have a character in mind. Now, think about a goal for that character. Something that makes them move, tick, or something they otherwise want very much.

Now, the problem. What will actively try or passively keeping him from reaching that goal? Or who? How? What is going to happen?

Now that you have the main part, you just need to think, about what your character is going to do to solve the problem or get rid of their obstacle. These actions will most likely raise new problems and new actions need to be taken to solve them.

And, with this, the hardest part of your job is done! Next, you develop your scenes, starting from this last point onwards to the main goal.

Dialogue: bringing characters to fruition in 5 tips

The dialogue between characters is one of the most important parts of a novel or short-story and it’s important to get it feeling just right.

When someone is reading a story, the ways in which characters express themselves and what they’re saying is very important for the reader to feel like they’re getting to know them and to build some empathy with the characters. When writing, you should always remember how you’d feel as a reader as well.

Feeling natural

For the dialogue to feel natural, it can’t just be comprised of a couple sentences that someone said. You must create a sort of movie in readers head, helping them understand the character and feel what they might be facing. However, you should be very careful not to use language that might be too polished or poetic, as those tend not to feel natural at all.

Voice

Each character should have a different voice and it must show through what they say. Different people use different kinds of sentences and vocabulary, and so should the characters.

It’s important to give them a unique voice, but it’s also important to remember that a conversation might have a lot of repetition and that it could prove boring to read, so you can add some summary into your dialogue, shortening the parts of it that your readers might not need to read in a tremendous level of detail. The reality is that most people would not go to such depths while elaborating or explaining themselves, at least not at first glance. This will also make the character appear more realistic and grounded.

Importance

As I said before, some parts of the conversation might become boring to read. You must decide what’s really important for the story and things that are just normal, boring chatter. If your character is a mechanic, it might be important for the story to know what’s going on with the car he is fixing, but you probably wouldn’t place him describing meticulously what he is doing with all the steps, for each of his tools, right? Good dialogue works vaguely in the same way.

What you say and what you think

In real life, you don’t always say everything you’re thinking (as many times, that wouldn’t be correct, or polite, at all). Your character shouldn’t neither.

To feel natural, your dialogue must contain hints of what your character is really thinking or what he or she would like to say, but sadly can’t or somehow struggles to. Give your readers something to think about.

Silence

What can you say about silence? Well, it can say as much as words, for starters, right? So, in order to enrich your scene, interrupt the dialogue sometimes, describe a character’s body language and you’ll have a richer picture and a greater scene to present your audience with. This might actually paint a fuller picture than some additional lines of dialogue ever would.

Who should tell the story?

When you’re writing a novel, one of the first decisions you must make is about the narrator. Who will be the one telling the story? How will they do it? Why?

You’ll face many options, such as: should my narrator be someone external to the story, narrating it in the third person? Should they be the main character, talking in the first person? Or another character completely? Should I have more than one narrator throughout?

Point of View

The most common choice is for you to have just one narrator, despite the fact that many successful books, even some classics, had more than one, having a single narrator is still true for the majority of stories out there.

You can have an external narrator talking in the third person while he’s explaining everything that takes place. He might be like a god, knowing everything that is happening everywhere, or he might be just like a follower of one of two characters, being as surprised as you are for some of the events or how they unfolded.

Another way of telling your story is to give a voice to a character. This is called point-of-view character and with this option, your reader will see, hear, and possibly think, what your character is seeing, hearing and thinking.

The choice of this character can be another headache for the writer and sometimes, writers take the option of switching who’s telling the story along the book. This is called “head-hopping” and it can be dangerous for the flow of your story, so it’s probably not a good idea for a novice writer.

As you can see from this little summary, there are plenty of possibilities and you can explore them all. Nothing is forbidden, as long as it works for your unique story.

Some advice

Above all else, readers want emotion. They will seek out different emotions in different genres, but in the end, that’s all they want, even crave. So when you’re writing you must think of what kind of emotion you want to give them and base your choice (each of the ones you’ll have to make throughout the process of writing) on it.

Make sure that your book gives them what it is they’re seeking in that style of book.

Advantages and Disadvantages of each Point of View

When you choose the first person point of view, your reader will feel close to that character, providing a bigger intimacy which can be very productive. However, your character has to be interesting and have an appealing voice. For example, if your character is an old man with Alzheimer’s it probably will be too confusing for the reader, making it harder to develop empathy, or you might get strong empathy but lack clarity and focus (from the said character) to provide a decent flow for the rest of the story.

With a third person point of view, or an external narrator, you’ll have more flexibility writing your novel, making it easier for you to switch scenes (your narrator will not be stuck in the same room as one character, he can know exactly what is happening outside and that might be useful too).

How to choose?

In order to make a good decision is important that you understand the implications of each point of view and if that will fit your story.

There are a couple questions you can ask yourself that might help you to choose:

Do I want my readers to be able to know what goes on in a variety of different places and the circumstances of various different characters?

Do I want my readers to have access to the characters deepest thoughts?

Do I want my readers to feel what the character feels, or to know what they’re feeling?

In the end, if you still have doubts: experiment! Write the same scenes from both points of view and see what works better for you.

Characters also need a soul – 5 tips to write interesting characters

When you’re imagining a story, creating the characters for it is just another part of the job. It’s almost automatic, the way they get into your mind, showing you what they look like, how they think, yet, putting those things down on paper isn’t always as obvious or easy to do.

I’m not talking about poor writing skills here, no. They can be well written and yet, not appear interesting at all or straight up unappealing. So, what can you do?

1. No stereotypes

Stereotyped characters aren’t surprising or intriguing. If you want to write one, you should have a specific goal to accomplish with it, and, even so, you can make your character much more interesting by adding some characteristics that run against that stereotype. It grants something new to the story and your readers will like it.

2. Everyone has a secret

A big nasty secret is a hand full of great scenes for a novel or short story. Give your character a secret, something that he or she tries to hide and do not fully open it up to your readers. Let them strain and test themselves while trying to guess at what it is. They’ll become that much more invested in it…

3. You know those kinds of things you can’t do? He can!

In the world of fiction, everything is possible. In real world we constantly deal with desires and impulses we must control, but in fiction, your character can in fact do it all. Being impulsive and doing unexpected things will actually make him even more interesting. If your character acts on what your readers must try to keep under control, they will keep focus on your story.

4. Action!

A passive character is boring. Let’s face it, we all like to read about that person who does things, changes their life, or the people they love. The person who take the reins of their lives. Let your character be one such person. That will get people invested in them.

5. They need to make sense

Doesn’t matter how crazy your character is, there must be reasons for his or her actions, other than pure craze or randomness. Your character should have values and beliefs that guide their actions. It will make the character itself deeper, more profound and human, and it will help lead the readers towards empathizing with him (or her).

The characters and myself

A writer often starts writing about himself or his experiences. Our first characters are usually some kind of reflection of ourselves… what we are, what we wanted to be, what we hate and love about ourselves.

This is normal, expected and actually good practice. It’s important for you to know yourself and explore your own personality, since, when you create a character, you need to explore it and it would be harder if you’ve never done that before. The words, descriptions and everything else you’ll craft around these first characters are kind of who you are, which makes them special.

However, this is just the beginning, and eventually, it comes time to evolve and create something else entirely. You do not want every single character to become a different version of yourself, do you? So, when you finally reach this point, what should you do?

It’s never easy, no matter the circumstances, to see something from other people’s point of view. However, as a writer, this is your job, so you need work at it, and practice it a lot. Empathy is the key here.

So, start freeing your mind from all of your beliefs and prejudices and look at your story from different points of view. Try to write the same scene, narrating it with the different voices of the several characters that take part in it. They surely have different thoughts and feelings and you must write the same scene according to these differences. Is it hard? It very well might be, at first.

Let’s see, there are several ways to accomplish this. Even in real life, you can train this ability with and on other people who cross your way. Try to understand and perceive conflict, disagreements or debates from several of the different perspectives. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who might disagree with you. Why? What’s his or her point of view? Try to understand, empathize with that person and his or her ideas and you’ll realize that you can truly start to understand what he or she is thinking.

Besides, you can’t flood your readers with extensive and exhaustive descriptions, you need to be a bit more subtle and the best way to learn how to achieve this is by actually observing other people and their behavior. People don’t usually lend themselves to be read very easily. You actually need to read in between the lines and realize what they are really thinking to start figuring out who they really are. And, in the end, what helps you get to know that? What was the sign that elucidated you? Keep at it and you will soon find out what stands out.

That’s the one thing you need, to find that something that’ll help you read people, better see a story from different angles and be able to make and write more interesting and realistic characters.

The characters make the story

The characters are the soul of a story. Without good characters, no matter how amazing your story could, or would be, your readers will not identified themselves with it and they’ll get tired.

For me, building the characters has always been the best part of writing a new book. It’s really exciting and sometimes I just start constructing them, the characters, and somehow, a new story is born. It’s just that simple! But I don’t think I realized the true importance of characters until I started writing a non-fictional book. It might seem kind of counter-intuitive but it’s the hard truth.

Somewhere along the way, I felt the need to stop and think about people who were part of my live, portrayed as characters and that was the only way I didn’t get stuck in the first chapter.

The characters move the story along, as what they think, what they do, or don’t do, will determine how the story will evolve. Every single piece of information about them will have an impact on your reader and the way he or she will see the story.

So, in the end, they are what truly matters most, so don’t even think about the many hours you spend building your characters, as lost of time. Create them, think about all the details, and even when they do not matter to the story at this time, they will help you to create a coherent person, a believable one and it might just save you a lot of time latter on.

Create great characters, and end up with great stories.