A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Got Character?

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.


MaureenAMiller said...

Absolutely true, Julie.

People (me) fall in love with characters, not a plot. A plot is fantastic because it takes the characters we care about and does something with them.

And, well, who doesn't love Han Solo? (sigh)

Toni Anderson said...

I agree, Julie. I love characters especially the ones who aren't so good but end up doing the right thing :) My heroes are often bad boys, although not always. That kind of depends on the heroine. BUT I know I have to work to make my bad boys appealing, because they aren't always particularly 'nice' and their morals are kind of on a shifting scale :) Especially the guy I'm editing right now :) But creating memorable and sympathetic characters has to be the most important thing in any story.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Couldn't agree more, Julie. I love characters that are nuanced, with not so savoury bits to them. Makes them all the more human and memorable.

Julie Moffett said...

@Maureen: I always had a thing for Hans Solo. :)

@Toni: I love to see characters redeem themselves. Especially the bad boys.

@Marcelle: Love it when characters are fallible. Although, I do enjoy the outrageous characters like James Bond and Jason Bourne, too!! :)

Wynter Daniels said...

Good post, Julie. I love the Hans Solo character for all the reasons you mentioned. I'm also a fan of the bad boys and watching the transformation keeps me engaged.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You are so right. Hans was always my favorite character in Star Wars.

Julie Moffett said...

@Wynter: I, too, enjoy a good bad boy once in a while!

@Susan: I STILL like Harrison Ford!! :)

Rita said...

Great post. I agree it is critical we know what makes our characters tick. Showing it on the page is what draws the reader into the story and allows them to grow and change.

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