Friday, May 13, 2011
When you think of your favorite books or movies, I bet it's the characters that you remember most! For example, who could forget Hans Solo or Darth Vader from Star Wars, Scarlet O'Hara or Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind, Neo from The Matrix, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and the list goes on and on . . .
Characters are critical to any story. In regards to characters, if you are a writer, your job is to:
1.) Make your readers care about your characters
2.) Establish reader identification with your characters
3.) Make your characters care deeply about something (this is crucial in order to help drive the plot)
Let’s take Star Wars, for example, (because I presume everyone is more or less familiar with this story) and examine two of the main characters.
Luke Skywalker – He’s the every man – the person with whom the reader can easily identify with because he’s a lot like you and me. He cares about his family, about doing what’s right, about being good.
Hans Solo – He cares only about himself. He’s selfish, rough around the edges, and interested only in monetary gain. He doesn’t care about the Rebellion or fighting for what’s right. But still, we all know someone like him, someone whose selfishness has touched our lives in a passing or significant way. We can identify with him.
Both characters are critical to the story, the reader can identify easily with both of them, and the fact that they are different helps drive the plot, provide conflict and keep the pacing tight. Luke’s goals (to help the Rebellion and free the people from the evil Empire) are what basically drive the plot. However, Hans Solo is just as important a character because, despite his diametrically opposed goals to Luke, HE IS CHANGED BY THE PLOT. By the end of the story he has evolved into a person who cares more about other people than himself or money. We care about him all the more because we watched him change and grow and were a part of that evolution.
So, when you sit down to build your characters – ask yourself: “What do my characters care deeply about?” Once you know this, you’ve taken the first step toward committing your characters to paper and ultimately, action. And remember, creating memorable, unforgettable characters that the reader cares about will make just about any novel publishable.