Writing Great Characters

One thing I’ve learned about writing novels and stories is not to create boring characters. I’ve said this before here about writing your characters as one dimensional, never letting them grow. Nobody is perfect without any flaws and we all definitely make mistakes. So should your characters.

I’ve always thought of my characters as people for whom I’d like to be associated with. My main male and female characters have never been written as wimps. I refuse to do that. But, they can’t be perfect either. They make mistakes, too.

For example, in my “Remember The Eyes” novel, Riley told Michael about some of the weird things she can do. She not only told him that she was psychic, but she told him that she could read his mind, too. He walked out on her because he was a little scared and needed some time to think.

Her mistake was that she told him her secrets. His mistake was walking out on her. But, later in the story, they grow back together. The point is, they grew. They acknowledged each other and reminded each other of the love that was between them. But, more importantly, they grew as characters. It wasn’t easy for them to get back together.

I’ve read some books where the characters didn’t grow at all. One book I read called, “Sleepy Hollow” had 25 chapters in it. It didn’t start getting good until I got to the 24th chapter. That really pissed me off. I wanted to take the book back to the bookstore and demand my money back. I’d kept reading the book hoping that on the next page something was going to happen that would make the character grow. It didn’t happen until the end. So for me, it was a boring book. The very fact that this book is part of a series doesn’t make me want to go out and buy the next one. I’m figuring if it took that long for something to happen in the first book, what’s the second one going to be like?

Another thing that some people do is kill off characters too soon or make the character wimpy. Nobody wants to read about a character that gets pushed around all the time but does nothing about it. A reader doesn’t want a character that doesn’t do anything. No one wants to read about a character who falls down all the time, literally stumbling through the book, only to find out that they wouldn’t have done anything about it anyway. That makes for a boring book.

All too often, authors don’t let their characters grow and develop. Characters need to grow and develop. They need to make mistakes. They need to get advice, they need to fight, gain and lose friends, and sometimes (and sometimes we hate to do it)  a character has to die in order to help the other characters grow.  And most definitely, a character that grows, never gives up. They don’t take the sit-back and-wait-and-see way. They’re go-getter’s who know what they want.

Life isn’t perfect, and neither should our characters be.

However, fiction isn’t real–it’s better!

This entry was posted in Advice, Uncategorized, Writing by Beth Muscat. Bookmark the permalink.

About Beth Muscat

I'm a wife, mother, writer and a blogger. I have five novels published at Amazon.com and a couple more in the works right now. I've got so many great friends that have helped me achieve my writing goals, and I've still got a lot to learn. They're all terrific people, some of them bestselling authors and some just starting out like me. I've got five books out as e-books: 1. "Wildflower" is a Contemporary Romance, a sexy love story about a younger man and an older woman 2. "Remember The Eyes" is a Paranormal Romance, and Book One in a series. 3. "Nothing Without You" is Book Two 4. "Infinite", is Book Three. Each book revolves around Riley and Michael, the love they share together and even the discoveries made with each other. 5. "The Bracelet", a Fantasy Romance about a woman torn between two worlds.

12 thoughts on “Writing Great Characters

  1. Love all your points but my character doesn’t know what she wants until the end and that process is the whole story basically, helping her find out that she always did know what she wants….

  2. Fantastic article. I think in general people are nervous about change. The great thing about time is it doesn’t give us much choice, it actually takes a lot of work to stay the same person, cause and effect always has a much bigger influence then we expect. Thanks! You have given me much to think about!

  3. Great points! When I wrote the first draft of Secondhand Shoes, Lila drove me nuts. I wanted to punch her. She was an absolute door mat. The second draft she was a little better but no by far. The fifth draft she blossomed with a sense of humor and her Gram’s help.

  4. Great blog on characters. I just let the characters go off on their own and develop their way. You are right. Whimpy characters are boring. Picture a book with all characters like Arabella Figg from Harry Potter. No personality. Uck.

  5. I’ve read a few books I liked that had flat characters, but there has to be something else *really* amazing about them. It’s usually all about the character.

  6. Very good point you’ve made, here. I will, however, have to say that sometimes, having a character(s) grow at the end or somewhere at half or just past the halfway mark can be good, too. I think that whether a story is boring, or not, is or can also rely on what happens in the story that has the character not grow till the end. One example being the famous classic story of “A Christmas Carol.” Most people know or know about that story. And most have seemed to comment on that they liked it. Yet, this story has the main character not change until the very end. A good majority of the time, yes, a character will need to grow before the very end of the story for the story to not be boring. In some cases, though, it can and has worked of having the main character(s) not grow until the end. Conversely, though, in my opinion, I also think that if you have multiple characters instead of just one character that you want to show as having grown/changed, I can really see your point, well, of making sure that the growth/change of the main character(s) doesn’t happen towards the end of the story. And I think that maybe not only ensuring that the growth/change, and events that led up to the growth/changes of the multiple characters the writers want to show as growing/changing aren’t at the end of the story could help, but that also spreading out throughout the story line, the growth/changes and events that led up to the growth/changes of those characters could help, as could keeping the time that it takes the characters to grow/change to a time that isn’t too short (don’t make the characters’ growth/change happen too quickly, in other words), cus it could better ensure that there are less sections of the story where there isn’t much happening within it. That way, there can be less of a chance of readers thinking a story could be boring. Just a thought. 🙂

  7. Oops. Guilty as charged…I’ve killed a character very early on, but it is for the sake of developing the protagonist. Oh no, I’ve said too much!
    Anyway, I’ve actually been thinking about boring characters a lot lately, because I’ve been reading a novel that was written in 3rd person, Angelology, and it has some flat characters. It ends up being an amazing book, but two female characters are so flat in the beginning that it becomes hard to tell who is who at one point! That is soooo bad. The characters really need to stand out from one another. They need to have their own voices. Nothing is more annoying to me whenever I’m starting on a new series and all I can think is, “Wait, who is that speaking?”.
    And I really do think it is vital for a character to grow withing the span of the novel. As a story teller, the author is taking the reader on a journey. A huge part of that journey is how the protagonist grows and how that helps the main character achieve his or her goals or overcome obstacles. It plays a big part in reader satisfaction.

  8. Characters who don’t grow, who don’t adapt, who don’t show any steps forward are doomed to become…. well, the Family Circus. Those kids are stuck like that forever.

    At least Peanuts gave the kids depth.

    Great post!

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