C is for Compelling Characters (A-Z of Writing)


Hi Everyone

Whatever story you are writing, you have to create compelling characters. This does not mean to say they all have to be ‘nice’ characters, on the contrary, some villains make the most compelling characters because as human beings we are naturally curious as to why a person has become in that state of being and that’s what keeps us intrigued. Therefore a flawed character can be just as attractive as someone with an endearing personality. Think about how many TV programmes there are nowadays, that explore the reasons as to why a serial killer became that in the first place. We want to understand the reason why someone speaks, acts and behaviours in the manner in which they do, so that we can find a part of ourselves that connects with them in some way and causes us to want to know more. It becomes a challenge to us, a mission, to want to solve the puzzle of their personality.

There are exceptions to this. If you are writing a children’s book for 3-5 years, the last thing you want to do is bring a nasty character into the story as this would most likely scare a child of that age. With this age group, it is more about a child being compelled by the main character because they can relate to a problem the character is experiencing.  For example losing their Blankie or favourite toy. The reader wants to know how that problem is going to be resolved. This is the ‘hook’ that pulls the reader along to the end and needs to be intertwined with a degree of tension, built gradually to a peak and then to a successful conclusion.

To create a compelling character in a novel from someone who seems to have the most wonderful personality and the most perfect life, they usually have to have something happen to them in the story that affects them in some way. The more major way the better, as it adds curiosity and drama to the plot, increases tension and compels the reader to find out how they deal with that event and how it affects  the people around them. Remember ’cause and effect’ and as you write your story, keep thinking of this in your head. You need a ’cause’ to create a puzzle that needs to be solved and you need to explore the ‘effects’ of this on the main character and consequently the other characters. As the reader gets into the mind of the characters and feels for them, they will want to know more and read on.

But what about non-fiction books?

With non-fiction books, the book is often written by someone with experience in their field. They have been through it, done it and come out the other side. They are imparting the knowledge of their experience to the reader. So in effect, they are the main character and they become compelling when they are viewed as an expert with a human touch, that other people can relate to and learn valuable information from, to inspire and to help them. Another thing a non-fiction writer may include in their book, is case studies, these are often based on real-life people, whose identity has been kept anonymous but who have been through similar experiences to that of the reader. They are compelling because as they pop up throughout the book, they offer various solutions to solving a problem or issue that the reader needs to be resolved.

As always, your comments are most welcome.

Write soon

Sandra

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