By Chelsey Schallig
What makes readers keep reading and stay invested in your characters?
Make Your Readers CARE about Your Characters
When a book doesn’t hold my interest, it’s because I am simply not feeling the characters. I don’t know who they are and I don’t know what they yearn for.
Create a Connection
When you see yourself or someone you know in a character concept, the connection is immediate. To connect with a character, it’s like meeting a stranger and knowing right away that you’re going to share a long-lasting friendship.
Make them Real
It’s important to give your characters’ flaws and weaknesses. The characters must have heroic traits and demonstrate strength during difficult times. This will make them feel real to a reader. The flaw can be simple as greed. Or it can be something more complicated, such as an arrogant, materialistic character who initially isn’t likable until we learn her tragic past. When a character overcomes a terrible experience as your story unfolds, your reader will be more likely to root for him or her.
Don’t Make Them Too Good or Evil
Readers tend to dislike characters who cannot be relied upon, play dirty, and/or break promises that let people down. Beware of making the good characters too good though, and the bad ones too bad. A hero who is pure and noble with no flaws or imperfections or an evil character with no redeeming virtue tends to be disliked by readers. They also get boring quickly.
Answer the ‘Why’ of your Characters
Give your characters’ believable motivations. Give his or her background, events that shaped who her or she is today so readers can accept his or her actions. To make the story believable, the actions of your character must be believable so that it ties into the characters’ arc of change. Your character must end up a different person at the end of the story because he or she is growing and changing as life moves along. The reader will be satisfied when your character becomes a new person.
How does your character view themselves? Is she insecure? Does she wish to be different or compare herself to someone? What actions does she do in the story that try to compensate for a negative self-image? This is a good way to show a change in your character because from beginning to end, she learns to accept herself and stops comparing herself to others.
Make Your Character Multi-Dimensional
Don’t create a plain, dull character, because readers simply won’t care about them. There are various tools to create a character. I’ve found enneagrams, which are diagrams of personality types showing behaviors, attitudes, and limitations influenced by childhood development to be helpful. Make sure to research personality types to give your character life.
By: Chelsey Schallig