Monday, August 13, 2012

Great Storytelling -- Characters

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In my opinion, what makes or breaks a novel are the characters. Characterization is the tool that allows readers to connect with your story. Give us a character we love, and we'll follow them anywhere, no matter how strange or boring. So it's important to carefully think about how you're going to craft your characters. For me, there are three kinds of characters that are guaranteed to make me fall in love.

1) Strong characters
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Don't give me a whiny main character. If all they're going to do is sit around and whine about how horrible their life is without taking any sort of action, I'm going to throw the book in the corner and never look at it again. I want action. I want a character I can root for. I don't want to be yelling at my book and encouraging the character to do something. People give me funny looks when I do that.

2) Imperfect characters
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I do not by any means want a perfect character. Maybe Kimberly whines before doing what needs to be done (but she still does something, mind you). Maybe Justin keeps falling for manipulative girls. Whatever you want to do, just make the character realistic. This helps the reader connect, because let's face it: we all hate someone who's perfect. Also, it makes for better storytelling. An imperfect character is far more likely to get into difficult situations than a perfect character is.

3) Interesting characters

This one is harder to give actual advice for, because there are so many things you can do to make a character interesting -- a weird hobby, an unusual pet, a phrase they like to use. For example, Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice is so boring that it makes him interesting. Of course, you have to go more in depth for a main character than a side character -- a strange pet just isn't going to cut it. But you have pretty much every tool at your disposal to make a character interesting: family background, beliefs, personal experiences, friends, possessions, hobbies, etc. An interesting character makes for a unique character, and as readers, we love a character that is able to stand out.

So what do you think, readers and writers? Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to characters? Is there any character trait you love to see? I'd love to hear your thoughts!