Fiction writers are good liars. The best, actually, because to succeed in our craft we have to cajole our readers into entering the world we have created and convince them that it exists. How do we do this? With believable characters. The first thing editors look for in a manuscript is strong characterization.
There is only a little difference in characters used in non-fiction. With them it is necessary to study what has been written about the person, what he was like, of course his physical characteristics, but also pick up on mannerisms, likes and dislikes, everything about him and then weave those into the story. There still must be goals, internal conflict and of course the true story that created the external conflict, or that which deters him as he struggles to reach his goals.
For those of you who do interviews and write articles, it is especially important that you recall the physical attributes, the mannerisms, the way of speaking so that your article will bring that person to life for the reader. I’ve written columns and profiles for twenty years or more and in each one I strive to acquaint my reader with this person. Let them see deep inside.
Whether reading fiction or non-fiction, most readers don’t want to be told a story, they want to live that story. You, the writer, must make it possible for them to become a part of the life of your characters. So the reader will cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh, be disgusted, appalled, excited, saddened. Without characters that live and breathe, suffer, exalt, readers lose interest.
Your fiction characters must be admirable and goal oriented, they must have flaws that make them appear real. They can also be larger than life, this is fiction, after all. And aren’t our heroes larger than life? Think of real heroes and expand upon them for your hero. Everyone dreams of doing the impossible, let your hero help them fulfill that dream.
Each character must carry baggage with them into the story. Baggage that produces a certain angst. Emotion is why people go to movies and read books. We have to know who the characters are before we can care about them. Ever notice that all good movies begin by dragging the viewer into the characters’ lives, the set-up, where we learn to care so much about them that when things begin to happen we care. If we don’t care, the story, no matter how good, falls flat. Emotions can be credible and in character, or incredible and out of character.
Writers have it one up on movie producers, though. We can establish internal conflict. The eye of the camera can’t, and so the actors must make us care. So acquaint the reader with each important character by showing that internal conflict.
That done, here are some questions we must ask about our characters: Are they likeable despite their flaws and faults? Do they seem real? Can reader identify with them and care how they feel? Do they have unique voices and traits, are they consistent in manner and speech, are their motivations realistic?
And, by growing stronger, can they handle the situation in which you place them?
There’s no one right way to begin your story, novel or book. Some writers create and outline a story idea, then people it. Others create characters, put them in a situation and go.
I usually do the latter, what’s called writing by the seat of your pants. If I spent weeks outlining a story, I would lose the spark of creativity, but many do it that way very successfully.
Next week we’ll talk about the characters who should be in your book.
See my E books here

About veldabrotherton

For thirty years I've been a writer. Publication of my work began in 1994 . I'm pleased to have recently settled with Oghma Creative Media as my publisher. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. I recently signed a contract to write westerns again, and what fun it's been working on the first one. If I weren't writing my life wouldn't be so exciting.
This entry was posted in creating characters, emotion in characters, fiction, internal conflict, nonfiction, story telling, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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