CHARACTERS #10 - LIKABLE CHARACTERS, CONSEQUENCES, AND PRE-WRITING:
Last chapter in the Characters section! And then we're on to new topics.
We all want our readers to love the character we've created, but how can you do this successfully? Well, you'll see that it ties into a lot of the points covered in previous chapters.
1 - Don't force it.
- You can't tell your readers what to feel. Some of them may end up liking your MC, but some may end up hating them. Either way, it's not up to you. So be careful not to force your opinion into the story. I don't want to see sentences like: "She's perfect and lovable and nobody could ever hate her" or even rambling on about her good qualities.
2 - Be consistent.
Continuing from the last point, if you choose to tell the reader about the character's good qualities, you better be prepared to back them up. If you brag about the character being sweet and generous, the character should be sweet and generous. That way, you wouldn't even need to tell the reader about it, they could just figure it out on their own.
3 - Flaws are important.
- Perfect =/= likeable. Flaws are what make us human. They are essential to creating a well-rounded character, especially if you want your readers to relate and like this character. They won't like a perfect character who never does any wrong and is loved by everybody.
4 - Motivation.
- Readers generally don't like lazy characters either. Like I said in the chapter "A Character's Goal", your character needs a goal in the story. They need to be active, not passive.
5 - History.
- It's important that we know who your MC is. We want to know how they think, and why they think that way. What from their past shaped them into the way they are now? What makes them tick? What are they trying to become? Knowing these things helps us connect to the character and feel close to them!
6 - Obstacles.
- Struggles and obstacles are what proves our character and gives us determination. We want to see this character tested. We want to see them overcome their fears and work through their flaws. We want to cheer them on as they battle their enemies.
7 - Growth.
- We want to become invested in your story. We want to see this character we like evolve into what they're supposed to be, we want to see their progress and grow with them
CONSEQUENCES FOR YOUR CHARACTER:
For this, I'll include an online article, external link on the side.
When something happens in real life there won’t necessarily be a rhyme or reason for it. But when you’re writing, usually everything comes together and makes sense in some way. There’s a resolution. Even if the idea of your novel is that NOTHING makes sense, that’s still a theme you’re presenting to your readers. Most readers want some sort of resolution. They want to know why things are happening or where your character will go. They want to know that the things happening in your novel matter.
In order to make this happen, there needs to be consequences for what your characters do. When you’re writing a novel, you characters’ actions need to make sense. I know this doesn’t always happen in real life, but your readers aren’t looking for real life necessarily. They’re looking for an interesting story and they don’t want to feel cheated by the end of it. The way stories are structured makes sense because it’s been working SINCE HUMAN BEINGS COULD TELL STORIES. Don’t mess with it too much.
I guess a big complaint for me lately is the lack of consequences for characters who have been involved in physical or emotional violence. If your main character is attacked, there are going to be repercussions. Your character isn’t going to simply get over it five minutes later and be stronger than ever. This is especially problematic when a female character is raped or sexually assaulted. If you’re having your villain rape your main character just to show how evil he is, there are better ways to go about this. Also, a lot of writers don’t properly deal with the aftermath of sexual assault. Being raped or sexually assaulted is something that will stay with someone for a very long time, if not forever, especially if it’s not talked about or properly dealt with. This is something that will affect your main character no matter how strong she is, so NEVER down play it. It will change her.
As with any traumatic event, there should be consequences for your character. Research Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and learn what happens to people when they go through a terrible experience. Knowing these things will make your characters stronger and more realistic. Remember that having consequences doesn’t make your characters weak. It doesn’t mean they can’t grow and overcome everything that’s happening to them. Just know that some things shouldn’t be taken lightly and incidents DO affect people for a long time, even if they seem strong.
None of this means you shouldn’t and can’t be creative with what happens to your characters. I’m also not saying you can’t mess with story structure, but you need to make it reasonable. Your characters need to feel real and react appropriately.
Do your characters feel flat or disappointing to you? Do they not feel deep enough or easy to connect to? Then pre-writing could really help you.
Before you begin to write, you should know who your characters are. If YOU don't, your readers won't. How well you know your character will reflect in the way you write about them. Know their goals, motivations, interests, just like you probably know your best friends. You probably know where your best friend hopes to be in five years, or what you can say to motivate them. In the same way, you should know these things about your character. They need to become your best friend.
Create a character list! Open up a seperate word document and list everything you know about each character. Once you do this, you may be able to see just how little you know about certain characters.
Do the Character Bio I included in a previous chapter. It will help a lot, trust me. Even if it just serves to get your creatie thoguhts going, it'll do good. If you want to do more, there are plenty more on the internet if you want to search for them.
Learn as much as you can about each character's past. Now that you know it, this doesn't mean you should include all of it in the story. It's there for your knowledge, to give you an idea of how each character acts and why.
Also, this part isn't completely neccessary, but it's fun to sketch an image of what you imagine your character looking like. With this, the way you describe your character will be consistent throughout the story without you forgetting any attributes.
This wasn't the longest chapter, but it is the last in the character series! Hope these last 10 chapters have helped. We'll be moving on to different topics now, so be looking out for the next chapters! :)
Thanks so much for reading!
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