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How to Write Compelling Characters In Books That Readers Will Truly Enjoy

How do you write compelling characters that readers will love, hate, and get attached to? Here's some tips, tricks, and things to think about when building yours.

 

When it comes to reading, the best books are the ones with characters we can relate to, feel for, or the ones that effect us emotionally. If we can't get attached to a book, we lose interest. So, as a writer, I want to do the same things. I want to write characters that people will care about. Whether they want to protect them or kill them, a reader should always be able to immerse themselves.


So, how do I write characters that people will love? Let's explore that!


If you're trying to get into writing, there's one sound way to polish your skills and that's reading. Read, read, read. Why? Because this is how you analyze what works. Choose what characters you've liked in the past and then peel apart why. But since this is a blog on how to write your own, I'm going to give you some tips and tricks on how I go about writing characters.


Plot Driven or Character Driven

First, I think it's important to determine a writing style. Are you someone who writes plot driven stories or character driven stories? Here's a quick breakdown of what those things entail.

Plot Driven: A plot driven story often has a pre-determined event that is well developed and the character or characters are experiencing it. This style of storytelling often controls where the characters go.

Character driven: This is where a character exists and the plot is built around them. They drive the story and effect the plot with their actions.


Motivation

Once you figure out the style you want to write in, it's time to build your character. The biggest question I like to ask is "What do they want?" Whatever they want should be very clear to readers. It doesn't have to be obvious immediately, but they should have a goal. Without a goal, characters lack motivation and have no reason to act and without motivation, readers lack motivation to keep reading.


Big Goals and Small Goals

On the topic of motivation, it's a good practice to understand what your character's big and small goals are. It can get boring as a reader to experience a character that is obsessed over one thing. Small goals and relationships make them both interesting and relatable.

Ex: A large goal could be saving their father's company from their tyrant uncle while small goals can be rekindling a relationship with said uncles daughter.


Believability

It's important to create characters that readers can connect with and I don't just mean that their experiences should be relatable. What I mean is make their traits and behavior cohesive. For instance, if a character describes themselves as having a low self-esteem because of the way they look, don't then make them a seductress who can get anyone they want. Those two traits don't really mix.


Detail and Quirks

Adding a physical description to your character might not seem that important, but from a reader's perspective, we like to have at least some idea of their physical appearance for reference. This doesn't always have to be incredibly detailed and describing a character down to the tiny gray hair they have in their beard sometimes can be distracting. But a general physical description does wonders for creating a bond between reader and book. Of course, if there are physical details that are significant to the characters experiences (ex: A scar from a relevant battle) then those are worth noting. Again, as a reader, I have put books down for not providing a physical description of the character because I was completely disconnected at that point.


Personality

This is the funnest part in my opinion because this is where you get to have fun. Determine your character's personality traits, but again, keep them cohesive. What are their beliefs and mental qualities and how to they dictate their actions? For instance, if a character is extremely religious, hurting others, even in a time of conflict, might be against their beliefs, which could cause tension in other aspects that could make a story interesting.


Flaws

A too-perfect character is unrelatable and disconnected. While it's tempting to make your main character perfect and unbendable, those traits are unrealistic and can cause a reader to not care about them. This is true for villains, too.

Ex: In the original animated Mulan from Disney, Mulan faced many struggles and was physically weak in an environment where she had to quickly gain qualities she didn't have, but her motivation was strong. One of the reasons the live action rendition of the movie did not do well with the audiences is because that version of Mulan was special from the beginning and there was no room to grow. She was "perfect," which made her story unatainable and disconnected, gaining it a poor reception.


Exposition

Don't info dump. Yes, we know that Star Wars did it and the classic style of story scrolling just because their MO, but in books, it's a risky practice. Why? Because info dumping can be overwhelming for readers and again it can cause a massive disconnect. Trickle info in about a character's past rather than throwing it in all at once. This creates mystery and an opportunity for readers to absorb information at a rate they can retain. Appropriate places to add information like this typically is areas where it's appropriate to revisit it.

Ex: If a character is afraid of fire, an instance where they might freeze up in the face of fire might illicit a good opportunity to reveal the reasons behind their aversion. For instance, if they lost family to a fire, it might affect their relationship with it throughout the rest of their lives. But If you reveal that information during a moment that it has no significance, it can pull a reader out of the moment and leave them asking why that needed to be said.

 

Because I know information can be hard to remember from time to time, I've made an outline template for you!




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