Tag Archives: Character

How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #1

I was cleaning off my desk this weekend and I came across a handout from a seminar or class that I don’t even remember taking.  I read through the page and considered my current work in progress.  I’m pretty sure that by this time in my career I am doing what the handout recommends as an almost instinctual part of my writing process.

I almost tossed the paper, but thought there may be some people out there who could benefit from these notes.  And, of course, I tend to learn stuff myself when I write out and analyze notes for posts, so let’s see what happens.

To keep things  short, I will break this topic into 5 separate posts.  One thought to chew on at a time.

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.

All right:  Creating a character people care about:

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.  Everyone in the world has relationships. They can be good, bad, or just tolerable, but you know what a relationship is, and so does your reader. Seeing a character in a relationship is an easy way to help a reader connect.

Let’s think over some memorable relationships.  I’ll grab a character most people know.

Harry Potter.

Harry lives with his aunt and uncle. Wow, they do not treat him well, do they? Have you ever been treated unfairly? Have you every had to put up with it because you had no choice? Have you ever wished a magic letter would show up and scoot you away? (Well, I’m sure the answer is “yes” to most of what I said, anyway.)

Giving Harry this horrible home life helps us to INSTANTLY connect with him. We feel sorry for him and want him to live up to his potential.  If Harry can overcome the odds, maybe we can, too.

Do you see how quickly and easily the connection is made? In the first few scenes we totally care and we are engaged.

Relationships. Use them.

And if your character is stranded on a deserted island, have him draw a face on a ball so he has someone to talk to. Yes, that has been done, but that helped you to connect as well, right?
Relationships are one of the easiest ways to help your readers care about your characters.

How have you used relationships to develop your characters?



The Art of the Conflict – Keeping your Pacing while keeping your reader engaged.

Recently I was speaking to some writers, and the topic of “art in writing” came up.  We were talking about art in conflict, and I think some people didn’t quite “get it”.

Writing sometimes can get “stale”.  I know, I’ve caught myself doing it.  It’s really easy to get caught up in your dialog, especially during a conflict.  The dialog will start shooting out of your fingers.  This character says this, that character yells that.  You have a clear vision of the scene, but you just type out the dialog part.  Problem is, since you have the “clear vision” you “see” what is happening when you read it back to yourself, and you might not realize that the “art” is missing.

One of my beta partners called me on this about 8 months ago.  He told me that it sounded like my characters were sitting there on each side of a table reading lines of a script to each other.  There was nothing else happening but dialog.

I was a little surprised by the comment.  After all, they were raising their hands, slamming their fists, throwing things… weren’t they?  Well, honestly… only in my head.  That’s the way I envisioned it, but I forgot to add that to the “art” of the conflict.  When I read it back… he was right.

My challenge was then, to go back and CREATE the art.  In doing so however, I needed to make sure I didn’t SLOW DOWN the conflict.  I needed to keep it flowing.  I needed to keep the pacing.  I needed to keep the intensity of the scene.

Much easier said than done.

That is why it is an “art”.  It takes trial and error, and practice.  If your “art” pulls your reader out of the story, and reminds them that they are reading, or even worse… makes them start skimming to get to the good stuff… you have spoiled your story for the sake of art.

The author who can create art, and keep the reader engaged, is a true storyteller.