C is for Characters

A book without characters is called boring. Wait, no really they’re called non-fiction. And non-fiction is prosy and boring at the best of times. Unless it’s written in an interesting fashion…and then it’s not prosy and boring but informative and fascinating. But let’s face it…unless it’s non-fiction written for kids it won’t be very interesting.

Fiction without characters is called a travelogue. Seriously. If there’s no one to do anything then you’re stuck reading a bunch of descriptive phrases without pictures. How fun is that?

So characters are pretty important. If you’re writing a novel. If you’re going fly-fishing I guess they don’t matter quite as much.

So what makes a good character? It’s one that resonates with the reader on an emotional level. If you can’t relate to the character then you won’t like the story and if you don’t like the story then you quit reading it and if you quit reading it then the book gets put under the wobbly end table leg. And no one wants their work to wind up propping up furniture.

So make your characters likable, but human. One Pollyanna was enough, thank you. Your characters need a flaw. Something that takes the reader on an emotional journey with your character and ultimately leads to the reader feeling satisfaction as your flawed character transcends their flaw to become a better person.

So how do you create such a paragon of touching proportions? My characters wind up being a conglomeration of people I know, other characters in books I’ve read, and how I imagine people should be.

(Note the ‘should be’. I have a somewhat romanticized viewpoint of the world (probably why all my stories turn romantical) and my rose-colored glasses and pretty firmly pasted on my nose.)

A different author could probably take the same people I know, the same characters from the books I’ve read (and I read a LOT) and come up with a completely different personage for their story than I would, simply because their viewpoint on things is different. And that’s wonderful! Books would be pretty boring if they all were the same.

So draw on your life, your surroundings, the neighbor, the horse down the street, the leaf on the wind, that cute guy at the grocery store, the smelly dude at the library and mix them all together and see what you come up with.

6 thoughts on “C is for Characters”

  1. It is said that true life is stranger than fiction. Non-fiction has lots of characters, which is one reason I enjoy reading it. I love getting to know the people who shaped history, digging into their psyche’s and learning how other reacted to them or avoided them for various reasons.

    Every character has a place — whether they be real, imaginary or animated. You’re right, fictional authors often create their characters from the people they know. Imagination is good. Creativity is a gift. But coming up with things out of thin air is nearly impossible. There has to be a source to draw from somewhere. You’ve given me food for thought in this post. Thank you:)

    1. You know, I didn’t even think of biographies when I wrote this, but you’re right, they’re full of great characters. And they’re great fodder for imaginings as well. 🙂

  2. Great post! it is good advice about characters and very entertaining. I need to apply your advice for well-rounded characters to my newest wip. Thanks for posting.

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