Think back to the last good – really good – story you read. The one you couldn’t put down, the one that made you cry in the middle of the fifth chapter, the one you finished late at night because you couldn’t go to sleep until you found out how it ended. And then when you finished it, you closed the cover of the book and ran your hand over it with a sigh.
There’s a good possibility the biggest thing that drew you into that book and kept you there was a memorable character.
Oh yes, story is important, but unless your readers have someone to care about, even the best story will be flat.
Here are some ideas to make your readers care:
- Give them a likeable hero or heroine. Make sure she’s someone you want to spend time with, and your reader will, too. Give her a sense of humor, deep feelings for her family and friends, and someone who likes her. Make her smile once in a while, even if she’s going through adversity. Make her strong enough to stand what you’re going to put her through in the next 250 pages.
- Give your hero/heroine a past. Everyone has a past that affects them. He’s trying to live down mistakes – or hope no one finds out about them. He’s lost loved ones, had a crush on the girl next door, still misses his favorite dog, or burned a bridge he wishes he hadn’t. People are affected by their past. Your hero’s past determines his actions today.
- Give your hero/heroine a future. Give her dreams. Dreams motivate us and make us do things – interesting things. Every decision your heroine makes today is weighed with the future in mind.
- Make your hero/heroine three dimensional. There’s nothing interesting about cardboard. You say he’s tall, dark and handsome? Don’t let him be caught in a stereotype. Make that tall, dark and handsome guy scared of heights, but he still rescues the heroine’s kitten from a tree. Make him brave in the face of gunfire, but a wuss when it comes to spiders. Know what makes him happy, what makes him angry, what delights him, what scares him. Make him real.
- Give your hero/heroine someone to love. When we identify with a character’s emotions, we’re drawn into her story. We want her to marry the guy, or reconcile with her sister, or forgive her mother. We want to feel her longings and heartaches on the way to her happy ending.
Characters are what make the story – make them count!
What are some of your favorite characters, and what makes them memorable?