The one thing that draws readers into a story is a character they can relate to. A character that makes them care. A character that the readers want to succeed. An irresistible character.
But how can I create such a character? What makes readers relate to a character?
Here are three things that a character must have so readers can truly connect to him, her or it:
1) A Challenge
A character who is perfect gets boring really quickly. Nobody wants to see a person who always wins. That kind of people makes us feel inferior and not good enough – not a feeling you want to evoke in your reader, right? Instead, we want characters to be rewarded for their work, for overcoming their challenges.
So throw your character at least one challenge. Better make it more. There is plenty to pick from, you know. Just look around you. Do you know any people who are down on their luck? Sick? Different? Who have a goal that’s hard to reach? Who must do the impossible?
There’s your inspiration.
2) Real Emotions
This is where your writing skill come into play. You need to describe your character’s emotions in such a way that the reader can actually feel them. Look up “show don’t tell” for this, too.
This is actually a pet peeve of mine. I’ve seen so many stories with great potential, great worlds, amazing creativity, and they fail right here. They devolve into he did this, and then she did that, and then she was sad, and he kissed her, and they put up a statue and fought the enemy and then … and then … the end.
Be with your character. Use evocative words. Create a full scene, with all senses involved. Take the time to do so, even if it makes the story longer. It also makes the story deeper, and that’s what you want. You can cut extra descriptions if your word count is limited.
Or use terse phrases, ones that hit the reader like a punch. Whatever you do, don’t just say your character feels something. Make it real, make it count.
This is central to making a reader care. If you can evoke emotions, you’re almost there. And yes, it is a skill that can be learned, practiced and developed.*
3) Personal Growth
A character running around trying to kill as many orcs as possible isn’t very interesting. Yes, he might be challenged, and he might feel a lot of emotions about orcs, but as long as he’s just doing that, it’s not exciting in the long run. In fact, even if there are two dozen ways of killing an orc, it probably gets boring really fast. (I admit, this is how I feel about many video games.)
Much more interesting would be a character who sets out to kill orcs because a group of them slaughtered her family, but who then realizes that this particular group of orcs are outlaws hunted by their own police force.
Now that character will have to re-evaluate her expectations and goals, and might even come to cooperate with another group of orcs in order to get her revenge. I can see a potential story here that could lead to quite a bit of exploring, and even fun.
What do you love seeing in a character? What makes you want to hug one or flay one to death? Leave a comment!
Image Source: F. Moebius
(Yes, it’s hard for me to draw something else than a stick figure!)
* If you want to read a masterpiece on evoking emotions, check out “A Wind in Cairo” by Judith Tarr. You won’t regret it, even if it has horses.
PS: If you would like to know how well your story does on connecting with readers, I’m here to help. Click HERE and send off that email. We’ll work out how I can support you best.