A good plot is even better when the reader can relate to your characters. Robin Gianna talks about factors you should consider when creating believable characters.
Welcome back, Robin!
Have you ever read a book that was full of action with lots of things happening, but it still just didn’t hold your interest? I know I have. Usually, when I stop reading a book it’s because I am simply not feeling the characters. I don’t know who they are. I don’t know what they like, what they dislike, what’s hurt them in the past, what they yearn for. And if I don’t know any of those things, if a bad guy shows up or bad situation happens to them, I just yawn. Ho hum, this person is being threatened, but I can’t get too excited about that because they’re pretty much like a piece of cardboard without life. I simply don’t care about them. You probably know exactly what I’m talking about!
So how do we make sure readers will care about the characters in our stories? One important way is to give them flaws and weaknesses. Of course, the character must also have heroic traits, demonstrating strength during difficult times, but it’s those imperfections that will make them feel real to us, and that will make us care about them. The flaw can be as simple as Indiana Jones being afraid of snakes, and having to face that fear in the story. Or it can be something more complicated, such as a self-absorbed, materialistic character who initially isn’t terribly likable until we learn his painful past, and come to sympathize with him. Showing a character overcome internal weakness as your story unfolds is sure to have your reader rooting for him.
Another way to make readers care about your characters is to give them believable motivations. Show his background, and what has happened in his life to shape who he is today so the reader accepts his actions. Make why he does what he does in the story believable. This will tie into the character’s arc of change in the story the same way dealing with his flaws does. He must end up a different person at the end than he was at the beginning. Your character growing and changing is critical to a story that satisfies the reader, which is why showing who he was at the beginning, and how he became that way, is all-important.
What is your character’s self-image? Why does she feel that way? Does she compare herself to someone, or wish she could be different? Does she do things in the story that try to compensate for a negative self-image, or bolster a shaky positive one? This can be another way to show change in a character from the beginning to the end, accepting who she really is instead of believing she needs to be someone else.
There are various tools out there to help us develop believable characters. One I’ve found useful is enneagrams. This is a diagram of personality types showing attitudes, behaviors, and limitations influenced by childhood development. For example, the Helper is caring, interpersonal, generous, demonstrative and people-pleasing. The Loyalist/Skeptic is committed, needs security, highly responsible, often anxious and even suspicious at the same time he is affectionate. I won’t go into all the different types here, as there are numerous sites and books on the subject, but you might want to look into it the next time you’re developing characters, or want to enrich existing ones.
So! In a nutshell, a few ways to make your readers care about the people in your stories are:
-GIVE THEM FLAWS
-GIVE THEM BELIEVABLE MOTIVATIONS, AND SHOW WHY THEY HAVE THEM
-SHOW THEIR SELF-IMAGE, AND WHY THEY FEEL THAT WAY
-RESEARCH PERSONALITY TYPES, AND GIVE YOUR CHARACTERS THOSE CHARACTERISTICS
I’d love to know how you bring your characters to life, and make your readers care. Any suggestions in addition to the ones above? Thanks so much!
The Prince and the Midwife (The Hollywood Hills Clinic) – [Harlequin Medical Romance – June 2016]
His Cinderella midwife
Gabriella Cain prides herself on the exemplary service she provides to her celebrity moms-to-be. So she certainly doesn’t appreciate Dr. Rafael Moreno suddenly taking over her department…even if he is royalty—and gorgeous!
But distrust soon turns to secrets shared as irresistible Rafe proves dangerously easy to fall for. With a painful past behind her, can Gabriella dare hope for a fairy-tale ending with her prince?
Bio: After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’. She decided she wanted to write the romance novels she’d loved since her teens. Robin embarked on that quest by joining RWA and a local chapter, and working hard at learning the craft of fiction writing.
Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she’s not writing, Robin’s life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat. Connect with Robin: Website – Facebook – Twitter
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- Make Your Story Richer with In-depth Knowledge of Your Characters by Reese Ryan
- The Secret Driver by Laurie Schnebly Campbell
- The 3 Essential Elements to Creating a Believable Romance – C. S. Lakin