Writers may feel that they are stronger in one of two areas: either being plot-driven or character-driven in their craft. While I love a strong plot-driven story, I think that having memorable characters makes a book stand out in the mind more.
Pop quiz- think of a book you love. Is it because of the amazing plot, or is it a character that’s unforgettable?
I don’t think anyone needs to change their preference on plot vs. character, but why not try to include memorable characters in your plot-driven manuscript?
What makes a character memorable? Writing coach James N. Frey says the key to writing such a character is that they’re larger than life in some way. We live in the daily grind, and when we read a story, we want some escape. A character that stands out in some way helps draw us into the fictive world.
This doesn’t mean we write a perfect Superman character. The best characters have strengths and flaws so that we can relate.
The character should have some trait where they excel. If you’re writing the definitive plumber thriller, make the plumber have some ability where they are the best, whether it’s their plumbing prowess or some other attribute that can play into the story. Maybe this plumber is also a former state rodeo champ, and they must lasso the bad guy at the end. Readers will remember the roping plumber.
Another trick is giving the character a little quirk. An unusual detail that stands out will also plant a character in a reader’s mind.
In my YA superhero series, the young billionaire tech genius Simon Mazor keeps gummy bears with him and pulls one out before important moments. He has a superstition about certain colors being favorable or foreboding. That was a fun little detail to write, but I have gotten so many comments on Simon and his gummy bears from readers. It really made him stick with people.
Those are my two go-to tricks to help make characters stand out to readers. I try to make my stories fast paced with twists and turns in the plot, but I usually hear about the characters that were memorable to the reader. Hopefully these tips can help your characters stand out as well.
Jason Joyner is a physician assistant, a writer, a Jesus-lover, and a Star Wars geek. He’s traveled from the jungles of Thailand to the cities of Australia and the Bavarian Alps of Germany. He lives in Idaho with his lovely wife, three boys, and daughter managing the chaos of sports and superheroes in his home. He’s the author of the YA superhero trilogy Rise of the Anointed, which begins with the award-winning LAUNCH.