Lisa asked if we could do a blog on how to create compelling characters, and since we like to give YOU, the reader, what you want, here’s my take on it.
Ok, so you have a dream or see someone on the street that sparks your creative juices. You grab your laptop and begin to type furiously. This is the beginning, and it all starts with an idea, usually rough, but an idea nonetheless. You’ve got an outline, plot idea, GMC, and names for your characters, but do you KNOW them?
Probably not. And if you can’t identify with your character, than neither can your reader. Close your eyes, and conjure your hero/heroine; what does he/she look like, eyes, shape, color, facial features, do they have a crooked nose? How about hair, body type? Can you see them? Of course you can’t your reading this blog! Let your lids descend for a moment and picture your hero/heroine. Does you hero/heroine walk with a limp, fidget nervously when they talk? What about HOW they talk, do they have Scottish brogues as they do in my head? Or do they have a Philly accent like Charli’s characters?
You’ve got the outside down, now what about the inside? Continue to jot down little things about their background, things you may never actually put into your story, but help you define and understand your character, and why they may react to certain things in the story. Your characters should never be perfect. Humans have flaws. Give some to your characters. Have them struggle, make them believable, empathetic to the reader. Barbie and Ken are not going to cut it.
Are your characters doormats? Or do they have passion? What is that passion? Often people are passionate about things their good at, what is YOUR character passionate about? What about obsession? Someone who is obsessed WANTS something, or someone. It drives them, creates conflict and urgency. Desire is a powerful thing. What does your hero/heroine want the most? Are they afraid to go after it? Can what they want the most actually be what they fear the most? If it is, make them confront it. Throw it in their face like a pie. Good people make bad decisions all the time. Force your character to make bad choices, and your villain good ones. We’ll talk villains next week.
Make your character FAIL. Defeat them, and then build them back up. What do they learn, how have they grown? Flatly describing emotions or describing what happened does little to provoke feeling. The point is, the more YOU know about your hero/heroines past, the easier it will be for you to understand what makes them tic in the present.
Think about books you’ve read, which ones can you remember as clear as day? Think the classics here, Mr. Rochester and Jane Erye, neither is stunning in appearance or mind, but they share a connection: both feel alone in the world, unloved, yet accepting. Does Bronte have them fall in love and live happily ever after? Hell no. She DEFEATS them.
HEA is great, its why most of us like reading romance, but ‘tis the conflict in the characters that pulls us in, not the inevitable end. Does a certain character jump to mind? Yes? Woot, now tell us WHO they are and what it is that makes them stand a foot above the others.