Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Characters: The Key To Success

Creating a living, breathing character that readers sympathize with, love, or hate is often the key to a successful novel. Coming up with one that isn't clique or run of the mill is the hard part. How many tough P.I.'s with a penchant for drinking and fast women, or teen girls pining for the untouchable guy have you read about? Far too many I imagine. Does that mean you can't put one in your story? No, not at all. However, if you want your novel to be successful all elements of your characters cannot be clique.

Your main character, or characters, must have depth. Not to say you can't have a shallow character. Every now and then I love a shallow character but even they have to have depth. Think of why they're shallow, what made them that way? There's your depth! Adding small things like habits, nuances, likes, and dislikes will make them more relatable. If readers can't relate with your characters in some way they probably won't keep reading.

One very important thing to remember is that your characters shouldn't be too perfect. If they're gorgeous, charismatic, and completely without flaws they aren't going to be someone readers will sympathize with. In reality, no one is without flaws, our characters shouldn't be either. They don’t have to be physical flaws, they can be emotional. A flawed character is a beautiful character. If you tend to make your characters too perfect make that your mantra.

How does one come up with characters? Observation of people is one of the best ways. Take a little bit from here, a little from there, and create someone unique. I'll reveal a secret of mine here. Sometimes I'll do those personal questionaires, you know the fun ones will all the questions about your likes, dislikes, and history. It creates a great spring board for ideas. Remember to have fun with it!



  1. Heather, I love your little secret. What a great idea to get character traits we may not have thought about. Maybe when you come to Seattle, we can get together with Linda and describe our characters and do a little brainstorming?
    Thanks for a great post. You are so right... Characters are the key to success.

  2. Sounds like fun Karlene! I can hardly wait!

  3. Hi, Heather,

    Love this post. I know I always try to give me characters "Character."

    Too perfect is boring. In my latest ms my mc is riddled with flaws ... he's a teenage womanizer, arrogant, conceited, and over sexed. But you can't not love him.

    His psychotic father pounding on him is the reason for his behavior. He just wants the "right" kind of attention and doesn't quite know how to get it.

    Hi, Karlene and Linda.


  4. Good post. One thing that I've seen a lot lately, when I give critiques, is snarky women characters. I'm a sassy girl, but I'm getting tired of seeing the same sarcastic characters who are stubborn. Been there. (I'm also guilty of this too, btw)

  5. Even your shallow characters must have depth--I love that. It can be hard when you really hate a character, it's so satisfying to make them black and white. Let's talk about it during our brainstorming session!

  6. Michael, riddled with flaws, I love that! You're right, I like him already!

    Diana, I know exactly what you mean! There's a lot to be said for originality.

    Linda, that's so true! Sounds like a great topic to cover, can't wait!

  7. Hi Heather. Nice to meet you. Just came across from Michael's. I liked your post. Good things to consider. Coming up with a fresh character can be hard work but it is fun finding quirks and flaws for them.


  8. Hi L'Aussie, I'm so glad you dropped by and liked the post. Thank you for following! It is fun discovering their quirks and flaws, for sure!