Captivating Characters

One of the best ways I can think of to create a character who captivates the reader is to become that character. But it’s not that simple, because suppose you become a dull, boring person? Yes, it could happen. So before you step into the head of your protagonist perhaps you ought to consider some possibilities.

That person needs to be strong, almost larger than life, but with a flaw that makes her human. A flaw that will cause problems as your story develops. No nailbiting or snarking here. But consider that she may be unable to commit. Or perhaps she values possessions more than friendships. Or she grew up without love and doesn’t know how to give it. While you’re considering this large flaw, don’t forget that she must be likable, so make sure that she is struggling against this shortcoming. What if she can’t trust anyone, then the story throws her into a situation where she can only survive by trusting a stranger. That’s pretty simplistic but you can work on more complicated situations.
As you fit yourself within her skin, think about what she wants more than anything else. Something she has wanted most of her adult life. Her desire may not make sense, but you are beginning to create someone who will be interesting and surprising. She will begin her trip through your story as someone who is lost. As she struggles to find herself, she may think no one cares about her. She’s an orphan. But she’s stubborn and will continue to strive to attain her goal. That will make her an emerging hero, and finally others will begin to support her when they see her struggle and she in turn will value their friendship and realize that what she does must be, not for herself but for others first. A true hero.
I usually start by writing a letter as the character, or if you prefer, let the character write you a letter as a close friend she hasn’t seen in a long while. She will tell you things and soon you’ll begin to learn more and more about your complex character. Reach, as they say, “outside the box” for ideas and weave them into the story. Be brave and see what happens. Write in first person until you begin to be comfortable in your hero’s skin.
This draft is only words and you can always rewrite, delete or start over. That’s how you become a better writer and your story becomes something everyone wants to read. Your goal is to create a character no reader can resist and the story will follow.
Study characters in your favorite books. See how their internalization reveals all these little things the reader needs to know without you, the writer, telling them. Put all the senses into play and create a sense of place so we feel and smell the rain, taste that morning cup of coffee, hear the breeze fluttering through the sycamore leaves, behold the glory of a mountain sunrise.
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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
This entry was posted in characterization, emerging hero, five senses, flaws, goal, internalization, sense of place, Velda Brotherton. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Captivating Characters

  1. Patty says:

    Great advice, VeldaStepping into the character's head is lots of fun. My characters say things that I would never think of saying, so it's fun to see things through their eyes. Of course, when I was writing about the serial killer, it was a wee bit upsetting. Especially for my family members! The cats started sleeping under the couch and I had to hide all my research material. I'm sure I ended up on a FBI watch list from the books I checked out of the library. But, my character became bigger than life and he scared the heck out of me. Thanks again for your wonderful words of wisdom

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