A to Z Challenge

Understanding Character

U is for Understanding.

There are characters you would love to spend more time with outside the book; books you only read for the characters; stories you stretch out just to spend more time with the characters you love. Story is important, of course, but characters… They are the reason we stick around.

There are different ways to write characters – I’ve linked to all the ways to write character I’ve written about before in my post “Three Roles to Avoid While Creating Characters”. There’s a lot to learn there.

Of course, characters don’t have to all be likeable. That would be boring. And we all have an arsenal of characters we can use, if only we can make readers want to spend time with them. How?

Characters don’t have to be likeable. But they must make us curious. – Roz Morris.

I had a story brewing in my head. It was the weird way my mind explained – in a hilarious way – why people I knew in the distant past ended up together. But the characters aren’t very likeable. They’re not despicable either. But there’s something there… So I used the advice of Roz Morris mentioned above and the story wrote itself. (Yeah, right.)

I also used this bit of advice:

If your character confronts a shocking truth, explore how they might express their fears in an indirect way. This will make the shock more profound. – Roz Morris.

I don’t like the characters. But I’m curious to see what happens next. Though I laughed as I tortured them (yeah, I had a bit too much fun there), when I reread it, I cringed a bit at the shocks and surprises they went through (which meant that I did my job right).

The story got mixed reactions from beta readers. Some hated it, some loved it. Some were happy that they weren’t the MC. All the reactions were powerful emotions relating to the characters.

Which means, even though my writing brain is still trying to get back to speed after my long illness, I got something right with this story.

Oscar Wilde said that all writing is a form of autobiography. (Maybe I already told you that this month? It sounds familiar…) It doesn’t mean you use people you know/knew exactly as they are – someone will get pissed. But you can use an irritating trait, something they said, the way they dress, etc. to get what you need. By understanding characters, you won’t write caricatures, but characters with real feelings, lives, good and bad traits, people readers can relate to.

Now that’s powerful.

Do you have favourite characters? How do you write your characters? The quotes from Roz Morris came from “Nail Your Novel Instant Fix: 100 tips for fascinating characters”– you can check out my review on Goodreads. 

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