Today, I want to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart… characters.
When I read manuscripts this is a huge one. If the character doesn’t captivate me. If I don’t root for them. If I don’t connect within the first chapter… it is torture to keep reading.
(And some small part of me is hoping silently that the writer is playing a cruel joke on me and will just kill them off. Maybe then I can get a new, shiny, awesome character that I don’t want to die. Or maybe don’t even care that much about.)
Anyway, I feel like character development and voice tell me a lot about the writer. And it makes me think about the writer when I can’t focus on the character. Then I remember that I’m supposed to be reading their book. Then I ask, “Why?”
There are some things that I want in a character. They can be the best or the worst. Beautiful or not. But I want their soul. I want the uncertainties that plague us all. I want to know how they really feel. What they do is important to carry me through the story. How they feel about it is another thing, it makes me care what will happen to them in the story.
Beloved characters can make an okay story.. amazing. If the writer takes the time to get to know their character, I feel like it shows in their work. I’m not saying that they should write a psych evaluation or biography but I need something with which I can identify.
I’m not sure that everyone is like me but the easiest things to identify with are insecurities. Fear. Anger. You know, the dark stuff. The stuff we all try to hide. It makes it feel intimate. Like this is a secret, between the character and I, the rest of the world doesn’t see.
There have been a few manuscripts lately that didn’t pull me into the character. It felt like the writer was so busy moving the story along that I didn’t get any of the juicy tidbits I crave as a reader.
The first chapter of a novel is crucial. Don’t save all of those bits for later. When I won’t care because I haven’t connected. Give me something to commiserate with and integrate that action with some feeling. Add in some body language to drive it home. Think about what they would do and why.
This is what I love to read. It doesn’t have to be over the top and melodramatic but give me a little something.
I know that the writers know their characters better than I do. I’m just hoping that you’ll let me know them better too.