Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Characters are the reason people read books.

Readers want someone they can root for, someone they can believe in, someone who will ultimately succeed. Most of all, they want to care about the characters in your novel. It's no coincidence when you say the word "character," the first phonetic syllable is care.

When first novelists start creating characters for their novels, many begin by picking out a half-dozen of their friends or family members and changing their names.
However, real people make lousy characters because you can’t change them.


Fictional characters should be composites of people you've observed, strangers and friends alike, whipped up with a touch of imagination. Use fragments, a gesture, a voice, from various people to create your characters. Above all, the characters should work in the story you’re trying to tell. If you feel bound by the truth, and try to duplicate a real person precisely, it will hurt the story.

One thing about writing fiction, which makes it radically different from living real life, is you don’t really know other people. After all, you can’t be inside their brains or their memory. You don’t really know why they do the things they do.

With fictional characters, you have the opportunity to know them as completely as you want to. There are some autobiographical elements in my books, but I've taken pieces of my life and distributed them to many different characters.

Fiction isn't reality. It's better. It’s logical.

Fiction is a wonderful way to share your ideas with the public. However, don’t preach. Simply create a fictional world the way you want it to be. That’s the magic of fiction: You can change the way things happened in your life. You can take pieces of your real life, bend and shape them, and use them for fiction. You can get the job you didn't get, right perceived wrongs or kill the boss without being hurt or arrested.

Because fiction is make-believe, it has to be more logical than real life if it is to be believed. Real people run your life. Characters allow you to run theirs. As a novelist, you can make people do what you want them to do. So use your power.

Characters are everywhere. Sit in malls, casinos and airports and watch people. Observe people much the way an actor observes them. Every gesture and nuance can be essential when you create characters. Learn to develop your powers of observation. Don’t be a stalker, but watch people and take notes.

Whether you are writing a romance, new adult fiction, a mystery or science fiction, the conflicts, which face your protagonist, should make sense and should be interesting, so you can raise the stakes in your plot without losing readers. Each character in your novel should serve a purpose and advance the narrative in some way. If they don’t, send them back to the farm team.

Characters also need specific attitudes toward each other. Show how your characters view themselves, relate to others. Character flaws, such as insecurities, make them more interesting.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.) 

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