Friday, September 24, 2010
Writing Compelling Characters
If you missed the info, here's the background on The Great Blogging Experiment:
Elana Johnson, Alex Cavanaugh, and Jennifer Daiker hosted the Great Blogging Trifecta a few weeks ago. They teamed up for The Great Blogging Experiment, where they invited bloggers to post today about "Writing Compelling Characters". The experiment? To prove that no two blog posts will be exactly the same.
My first thought was that it didn't apply to me. After all, I haven't completed, okay, or really even started a manuscript. My WIP consists of copious notes, printouts, bookmarked links, images and scenes floating around in my head and a fair sized stack of research books. I don't have all the characters figured out yet, but figure I've got enough to call it a WIP, even if it is just the starting fringe.
But then I thought, why not give it a try? After all, Elana said that it would be interesting to see all the variations from this experiment. I've created characters for kid's stories, taught fiction writing to teens, and I know what kind of characters that appeal to me, so I signed up.
Writing Compelling Characters
We need compelling characters for great stories. Setting is good, plot is important and a knack for writing is crucial too. But characters, whether people, animals, or something else - this is what the story is about. I've always thought that plot, setting, and conflict swirls around the characters.
Five things first come to mind when I consider character development.
1) The power to draw the reader in. Love 'em or hate 'em, a character has to grab my attention. I want them to be interesting. An MC needs personality and depth. I need to see how and why they relate to the story. If not, I quit reading.
2) They need to be believable. Unless I'm reading fantasy, I want to see real people. I want them to think and feel and have all sorts of emotions, actions, struggles and consequences.
3) They need to be consistent. They can't be having jealousy issues in chapter one and suddenly become unjealous in chapter two. (Is unjealous a word?) Growth and change through a story is great, but it's got to be natural.
4) The presence of physical characteristics. I want enough description of the character to be able to visualize them. A good writer, I think, paints images that enhance the reading experience. I'm not talking elaborate or lengthy, particularly with flash fiction, just enough to complement the rest of the story's elements.
5) They need to be memorable. Main characters should be memorable. For example, I just finished reading The Preacher's Bride, by Jody Hedlund. Over the course of the past week, I kept thinking about the book's MC, Elizabeth Whitbread. Her tenacity to do what she thought right was inspiring, and I will replay her comments, actions, and emotions in my head for a long time.
There you have it. My two cents on Writing Compelling Characters. Once my WIP is finished, I'll share what I've learned. :)
If you'd like some tried and true advice, check out this Writer's Digest link featuring quick tips for developing characters.
What do you think makes a character great? What tips do you have for writing compelling characters?
Please join me next week when I review The Preacher's Bride. This special feature will include a giveaway and interview with Jody. Happy Weekend!
Blessings and Happy Weekend!
Image credit: bulleTT http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1248121