Thursday, April 5, 2012

Writing Characters That You Connect With

It's sometimes hard to create an entire cast of characters from scratch.  It may seem daunting but if you want your book to be interesting, then you need to have a great plot, descriptive landscapes, imaginative worlds and above all, interesting characters.  If the characters are two dimensional and bland then people won't want to read past the first chapter.  So how does someone write a character that is interesting?  I find that the more I can connect to a character the more emotional I am and the more realistic the character becomes.  Once I have the idea for a character and have some kind of connection, (i.e. I like them, hate them, want to kill them, or want to love them) I have an easier time describing them and coming up with their dialogue.  When a character is fully realized, they can practically write themselves.

Let's say, for example, you have a guy, dressed in a suit, holding a gun.  It's clique in our violence saturated movie and TV worlds but it's still someone people like to see or read about.  So we take our simple guy in suit, holding a gun, and we decide, is he a good guy or a bad guy?  Well go with the choose your own adventure method and go with good guy.  (Well like good guys when they are armed.)  So we have a good guy with a gun.  Why is he wearing a suit?  Businessman...presuming it's a normal work suit, bodyguard...presuming he looks like Jason Statham, FBI...we'll assume it's off the rack, former gangster...if it's seriously pinstriped.  Let's go with former gangster.  Having once been a gangster gives him an edge over most of the other suits.  So we have a former gangster with a gun.  Why is he holding the gun?  He's facing off against his former associates?  Someone is trying to rob him?  The FBI doesn't believe that he has really left the mob?  Let's go with that.  So our former gangster is being hunted by the FBI because they believe he is still the bad guy.  Well go with gun stand off with the FBI as the reason for the gun.  Next, will he shoot?  Probably not since he is now the good guy, though he could shoot at something harmless like the tires of the cop car or avoid the fatal shot and wing someone to delay the FBI's pursuit. 

Okay, so our former gangster turned good guy has a shoot out with the FBI who are hunting him down for his involvement with the mobsters.  He grazes someone with a bullet and blows out the tires of the car.  Now, why did he leave the mob?  He was tired of the drugs, the backdoor deals, killing?  Did they threaten his family?  Did he simply take the money and run so that he could start a better life?  Let's go with threaten his family and being tired...we can mix and match.  So his mob boss questions his loyalty and kidnaps his young daughter to scare him and prove to him that they can get to him through her.  This now gives our character a wealth of emotions to play off of.  His daughter is being held hostage and instead of giving into the demands of the mobsters, our hero decides he is tired of the lifestyle and wants a better live for his family.  Now he can play off of fear...losing daughter because the mobster could easily kill her...anger...that's easy shows he loves his daughter during a tear jerking moment when the mobster puts a gun to her head....vengeance...he swears that he will hunt them down for killing her.  Not exactly noble..but he has that edge to him since he was once a bad guy, it makes him unpredictable.  Will he kill everyone in the end, or will he lead the FBI right to the doorstep of the mob?  You decide.

As you can see, we took a simple two dimensional idea of a guy in a suit, with a gun and gave him a reason, motivation, emotion and detail.  We could give a whole background of having a terrible childhood which caused him to become involved with the mob.  He could find an amazing woman who shows him how to love and gives him the strength to leave his life of crime behind.  Now it becomes a romance.  The more you put into your characters, without flooding them, the more your readers will find a reason to like them and cheer for them.

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