Monday, February 6, 2017

characters to care about


Characters are the reason people read books and they want to read about someone they can care about.

It’s no coincidence that when you say the word “character,” the first phonetic syllable is “care.”

One thing that makes a character worth caring about is the feeling that they are just a little bit more special than we are. Smarter. Braver. More attractive. I don’t mean you should create a Superman or Wonder Woman, but readers do want important characters to be special in some way, even unique.

Your book must have a protagonist with a goal or with something to overcome. When your protagonist strives to attain a goal, he or she is tested. Readers want the protagonist to have goals. They also want protagonists to have drive and commitment. Regardless of how good a writer you might be, the thing that causes most readers to read your book is the question that focuses on protagonists; will they succeed, or won’t they?

We make protagonists memorable by giving them a past, a history, memories. Real people have memories; protagonists should have them too. A fully-realized protagonist must have, at least in your mind, a past filled with memories. And that is where your own background can be used. Not all of it, just bits and pieces.
For example, I spent a few years in the navy at Naval Air Station Kingsville in Kingsville, Texas. I manned a typewriter in defense of my country during the Vietnam War as the editor of the base newspaper.

In my Veronica Slate books, part of her history or “back story” is the time she spent in Kingsville, Texas married to an Air Force pilot who was training at NAS Kingsville. I know that information is totally accurate to the time frame in question because Veronica was in the little town at exactly the same time I was. Naturally, I was not married to a pilot (or married at all, for that matter) but I knew several pilots and one very nice pilot’s wife.

In terms of a character’s past, even more important than what happened back then is how the character feels about what happened. Loving and losing is part of nearly everyone’s life. My romance itself was not as important as how I feel about it.

The reason your protagonist’s past is so important, and the reason I ask you to create a biography of your protagonist, is that we are all shaped by our pasts. You were affected for life by what happened in your past, be it good or bad, tragic or sad, terrific or just okay. We are what has happened to us and how we feel about it.

That’s how it is with protagonists; what they went through in the past governs how they react to what happens to them today. Their pasts shape their actions, attitudes, and even their fears in the present. How your protagonists feel about their pasts will help you make the characters more important to the reader.

Above from the book NOVEL SECRETS,
available for Kindle for only $2.99:

Lary Crews