This week’s chat on Nov. 26th is all about writing the kind of characters that jump off the page and take on a life of their own. Here are some of Robin Lovett’s thoughts on how to work for that goal.
Great characters who I remember and stay with me long after I’ve read the book vary in a lot of ways. For the most part, they’re books I love as a whole. I love a book primarily for its characters.
But no two people love exactly the same type of characters. Though there are archetypes (a model that some characters are based on, i.e. hero, antagonist, villain, mentor, etc.), the true variety of characters is as limitless as there are people in the world. Though, I think there are a handful of things that most memorable characters have in common.
One part of this topic is how we write those type of characters. But before we talk about how, I’d like to explore what the goal is for the kind of characters we’re working toward.
1) They inspire an emotional response.
Great characters make us feel things as we read them. We love them; we hate them. We get frustrated with their mistakes. We feel disappointment at their setbacks. They can make us angry; they can drive us insane. But in romance, they can also make us root for their HEA with all our hearts.
2) They have a goal.
Characters we want to read about want something. Even if what they want is to be left alone or to not have something, they must have a desire. They’re striving for something. In romance, part of that usually has to do with wanting or resisting a relationship but also includes an external personal goal.
3) They have a conflict with their situation.
They must meet with an external resistance to their goal. Perhaps this has more to do with plot than characterization, but the way a character chooses to react to that resistance is key. The strength with which they choose to work around or through the conflict contributes greatly to their relate-ability and their interest to the reader.
4) They have a relatable flaw.
A lot of plotting techniques place heavy emphasis on the development of a protagonist’s wound or internal flaw. This has to do with the strength of their backstory. Compelling backstory makes an engaging character and enhances our drive to see them achieve their goal.
5) There’s something unique about them.
Certainly there are archetypes but an intriguing character has something that makes them a unique individual. Whether it’s a personality combination, the flaw, the circumstance, the goal or all of the above– something about the character has to be memorable and different from what we’ve read before.
6) They have the humanity to make mistakes.
A lovable protagonist who does everything perfectly all the time is an oxymoron. In order to have all of the above things and engage in them adequately, they must make mistakes, and often in a unique and memorable way.
Their are other things. Or you may disagree with my “must haves.” Feel free to add your thoughts below. We’d love to hear them.
One thing’s for sure, interesting characters make for a more memorable, better selling book. What techniques we use to craft these qualities into our characters is a topic for a whole other blog post and likely something we’ll get into on the chat this Sunday. The work it takes to create such characters and the vitality it breathes into any story is never wasted.
Robin Lovett writes romance to avoid the more unsavory things in life, like day jobs, housework, and personal demons. When not reading with her cat, she’s busy writing sexy books which may or may not involve anti-heroes, aliens or both.
Her dark romance series is published through SMP Swerve, and her upcoming sci-fi erotic romance series will be released through Entangled Publishing in 2018. She’s represented by Rachel Brooks at BookEnds Literary agency. She writes articles for Heroes & Heartbreakers and diyMFA.com You can always find her on Twitter, Facebook, or at www.RobinLovett.com