You’ve read them before, many times. Blah or boring, perfect and flawless, too good to be true, obviously fake characters. So what can you do to take a different path? To make your characters come to life, seem real, appeal to the reader’s emotions? The answer is rather simple, though it often escapes the best of writers.
To make your characters human and real, give them real emotions, real feelings. Ideas? Heartbreak, even death, is real. Try job loss, promotions, marriage, divorce, even the affair. Does your character have health issues? Is he or she worried over hair loss, weight, that their clothes aren’t matching today? Make them real!
How many perfect people do you know? Exactly, there are none. Therefore, why would you author a book containing a perfect character or characters? Do you know any people that are without flaws or some type of weakness? Granted, there are those that would have us believe they are flawless with a fortress of steel built around their hearts. Reality, however, tells us that all humans have some vulnerable characteristics.
The obvious being stated, this tells me one thing. Readers want to see real people, with real feelings, real problems, real solutions. Regardless of what genre you write, if you paint the character as being too good, without any imperfections, the reader will more than likely become bored with the book. There are, of course, always exceptions to this idea.
Let’s take the case of the classic fictional hero novel. Our fictional hero, Joel Raison, searches for missing people. He leaves his native France, setting out on a journey that will take him across the globe. He is searching for a woman, Sarah Jehan, reported missing for well over a month. Sarah’s aunt has hired Joel to try and find her. How can we make Joel something more than “just” a hero here? Throw in some plot lines. Joel might have a stone cold heart, closed after being heartbroken over a lost love, vowing never to let another in. He does his job, gets paid, and moves on to the next job. What would it take to melt his cold heart again? Sarah Jehan? Why or what about Sarah would make her any different than any other female Joel has encountered in the past five years since his big heartbreak? Surely he’s encountered many females in his line of work.
What is he afraid of, or maybe we should ask, who? And what about Sarah? Where is she? Why did she leave France? Or did she ever leave at all? A sudden plot twist could help! Sarah knows of Joel! Hmmm, you ask….what’s Sarah up to anyway? Could it all be a ploy to heat Joel’s fire? Or did someone kidnap her? Now make Sarah real and give her some flaws, something that she is afraid of, etc.
Have you got the picture? Make your characters real. Give them desires, wants, needs, fears. Mold them after realistic ideas and thoughts. Give your readers something to identify with, make a connection to, in your book’s characters. Write so that your reader feels they actually know this character. Giving your players something to make them less than perfect allows your reader to feel they are part of this character’s life. It allows the reader to participate in the story, to get involved, to feel part of the action.
That keeps them coming back for more.