Connecting with Characters

“What’s your favorite part about writing?”

Simple—my characters. Who doesn’t enjoy relating to fictional people? They show us truths and flaws about ourselves we may not have previously understood. When you write your own characters, you shouldn’t just describe an interesting person, but allow the reader to see why they’re interesting in the first place.

The difference between a memorable character and a flat character is action. If you open your favorite book and read a page, more likely than not you will see a character doing something. Instead of giving the reader a sad monologue, the author will convey their sadness through actions: talking a solitary walk, eating, writing in a journal.

People are drawn to others who do things. Someone who sits at home and complains about their life is not the stuff of heroes; instead, readers want to cheer on someone who makes goals and strives to achieve them. They’ll cheer even harder if that hero fails a couple of times and keeps trying—because that is us, on paper.

This is not to say that you should mirror yourself in your characters. Rather, try to mirror humanity.

If you feel as if you’re just not connecting with your character, place them in a harrowing situation, even if it makes no sense. Dangling over a pool of sharks, for instance. Now—what do they do?

It’s okay to stop and think for a while. If you know relatively quickly what they would do, and why, then you’re probably connected with your character pretty well. If not, that’s okay; characters, like people, are complex and need to be discovered a bit at a time.

Learn about your characters through their actions and observe others around you. Why did she look at him that way? Why is he slowly tearing up that paper? Who the hell would punch a shark on the nose?

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