Hello! So yesterday I decided to do a mini series of advice about writing/publishing a novel. Yesterday's post was about planning/plotting, today's is about the heart of any story: its characters.
Where would a story be without characters? They are the very life of a story, and that's why it's so important to get it right. Great characters can intrigue and entertain readers even if there is nothing particularly exciting going on. On the flip side, not even an amazing plot can carry bad characters through a story.
I was just reading reviews for City of Bones by Cassandra Clare yesterday, to see if it would be worth reading(I do NOT recommend it, by the way). Too many reviews said that the story was an interesting concept, but the characters were so bad, they couldn't stand the book. Funny that this coincides so perfectly with writing this post. :)
Anyway, I'm not here to tell you whybad characters drag down a story; I think you understand that by now. Instead, I'm going to help you avoid that by teaching you how to write great characters.
First, you should know your characters as deeply as you know yourself, and well before you start writing the story too. But more than just knowing their names and what they look like, you need to know all the things about them that no one else does, especially the things that will affect the story, such as...
What's their goals/aspirations? Greatest fears?
What secrets do they have that no one else knows?
How has their past shaped who they are today?
How far would they go to get what they want, and what could put them past their tipping point?
Are they easily affected by emotion or do they hold everything in?
These things, more than their favorite color and song, will truly help you get to know your character and how they will influence their story. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions!
Second, your characters should have a balance of good and bad traits, and others should respond appropriately to them. Contrary to popular teen fiction where girls like the "bad boy", people are not going to be endeared by a jerk. Just don't do it.
And on that note, please make your females realistic. Girls do not fall into only two categories of helpless damsel and "strong"I-don't-need-anyone warriors. Girls can be weak, but they can also be strong. Balance it out.
As for male characters, the same applies, though the problem with male characters lies more in attitude. Guys are not flawless heroes or bad boys all of the time. Keep a normal balance.
Now, one last bit of advice. Characters are people too! Draw from real life for examples, and if it seems your characters are too far to one end of the spectrum, just dig deeper and ask the opposite questions; find their flaws or find their strengths.
And that's all for now! Leave me a comment telling me what you think of this, and what your thoughts on characters are.