Making Characters Interesting

What’s worse than a soggy sandwich? No sandwich at all. Bland characters will drive readers away in droves. To keep our readers we need to feed them a steady diet of interesting characters and plots. Here, we’ll look at characters.

What motivates characters is what drives them to act as they do. The reader needs to know, on some level, why the character acts as they do. This way they can feel the tension when the character has to make a choice.  Usually a choice that would force them to go against their own personal code.

Every character views themselves as the hero of the story. They all think they are right and doing the proper thing, even the villain. An antagonist who is evil for evil’s sake is less interesting than one who is driven by loss, revenge, anger, or the feeling that they are being called to a higher purpose. Even the side characters are the hero of their own story.

How a character speaks can tell volumes about themselves. Often with new authors all the characters sound like the author and therefore similar. Uneducated characters would speak simpler than a scientist. Some will be more vulgar. A timid character will speak differently than a bully. A general’s words will differ from a drill sergeant. It can be interesting to have someone speak differently than their character would seem, but don’t use this for every character or it will be confusing.

Use body language to bring out what the character is feeling. This may not always match what they are saying. This also brings in a more visual element which can draw your readers into the story. Like they say, use all the senses.

Borrow from life. We all know people and see how and why they act the way they do. Add some of the characteristics from people you’ve known, but be sure to change their names.

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2 Comments

  1. Excellent insight. I’m thinking of completing a story I started years ago, and was struck, as I got wound up in the story and not the characters living the events.

    • The story may be interesting, exciting the reader, but the lack of, at least. one interesting character – well described, active, attractive to the reader will cause boredom and in-the-end failure of your effort.

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