Recently I reviewed a few new writers manuscripts and found they were making very simple but fatal mistakes. The result was terrible: their characters left no impression on me.
When we read a book, at most we want to fall in love with the characters. Not romantic love, but form a real connection to them—at a minimum we want to identify or sympathize with the MC and other sub characters or else the story won’t matter to us.
Here are a few pointers on how to connect readers with your characters.
Pointer 1: Get the reader inside your character’s head.
A good story incorporates all of the five senses, but the sixth sense is most the most crucial: the emotional/feeling sense. If your story is told in First person, he/she will describe the setting, but this will not make us fall in love with your character. What is important is to tell us is how the setting makes her feel. Telling us how the character feels about or connects to what she is seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, touching, intensifies the scene and connects us to the character.
Let’s look at an example of two characters:
You are sitting on the beach minding your own business when a handsome or beautiful stranger sits down a safe distance from you. He/she talks about the color of the ocean, and how their coffee is bitter, and how the ferry whistle is too loud. When he/she walks away you consider it chit-chat. No such emotion was elicited and you’ll mostly likely forget that person by the end of the day.
The next stranger to cross your path is different. He/she sits a bit too close, then admits that they whenever they feel defeated they come to the ocean to remember their possibilities are endless; and while the ferry whistle is loud, they wished it’d be ten times louder because they met the love of their life on a ferry, and they never want to forget that day. Then they confess that they don’t drink coffee, and the only time they ever tasted it was in their first kiss which was much more sweet than bitter. Maybe you’d blush, even feel a pinch in your stomach, perhaps you’d want to know more. Guaranteed you’d remember them longer than the first stranger.
As writers, we are those strangers approaching those people on the beach. How will we make them feel? What will we tell them to make them remember us?
Pointer 2: Open up about the deep stuff.
Let’s say a girl protagonist describes a snobby, but beautiful girl in front of her that all the boys are looking at and stops there. We could guess at what she feels, but what if she admits that boys have never looked at her like they way they looked at that snobby girl. What if she admitted her sense of inferiority? Jealousy? Annoyance? It changes the intensity of the scene.
*Psychologists have taught that when people open up about their weaknesses, they are even more liked by people than when they open up about their strengths.
Pointer 3: Creating complex characters.
I go into more detail about this aspect in my blog post, The Dichotomy of a Great Character. Also check out this post, Creating a Protagonist Worth Reckoning with.
Pointer 4: The introduction and personality of your character.
Simply describing your MC is not enough no matter how good looking or mysterious—we need to see them in action. Instead, incorporate the setting and their appearance into the action introducing them. Then, we will find the character’s personality.
Quirks, habits, certain catch phrases can really help to define your character and make them real. Do they bite their fingernails? Do they always jump at scary movies? Do they always quote old war generals?
Find more on this here.
Pointer 5: Highlight redeeming qualities in the beginning.
We cannot root for a character we do not like. For example, my character in Rescued is horrible person at the beginning of the story, but the reader can see her weakness and desire to change, which causes them to root for her transformation and rescue.
Pointer 6: Make sure even minor characters have a desire, goal, problem and/or a quality about them that sets them apart.
Even a minor character who has his/her own goal or desire or fear adds far more depth and creates more purpose. In real life, our friends all have goals and desires, quirks and habits and weaknesses, so should our sub-characters.
Nova, signing off from beautiful downtown Seattle.
Photo Credit www.corriemahrphotography.com
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