I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.
Disclaimer: I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.
It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?
So how do we do this?
1. Relationships. (See previous post)
2. Give them a goal
Ugh. Goals. We all have them, right? We all have something we need to do every day. Some goals we like, others we labor over. The point is, we can all relate to having to do something.
If your character is wandering around in circles with no clear intent, the reader will not be able to engage. Even before the inciting incident that is the real start to your story… your character has to have a reason for being… a goal of something that needs to be done (it can be simple, like making dinner)
But soon you should hit the “big goal” that will carry your reader along for the rest of the journey. We have to know what the goal is and have a vested interest in the character getting there.
By the way, the “big goal” needs to materialize in the first 25% of the book or earlier. This may seem like a given to most of you, but I’ve read some works in progress lately where the author did not understand this. Think about your character’s goal, and make sure it is apparent to the reader.
Everyone wants something.
A reader can connect and care if they have the opportunity to root for your character to get what he/she wants.
So go ahead, give them a goal!
When I fill in my plotting chart, I make myself fill in the goal of each scene, along with the setting and event. Goals are very important, otherwise, our characters are running around our pages unsupervised!
Kind of like kids loose in a classroom? 🙂
I agree — some clue to the larger plot should appear within the first chapter, even if it’s a passing mention or vague hint. Readers will pick this up later and admire how cleverly you set up your conflict.