Improving the Reader-Character Interaction

While reading the Writer this month (a paid for subscription before I realized I was going to go the Self-publishing route). I came across an article that made me think. It wasn’t necessarily about character creation, but there was a moment when the writer touched on creating characters. The writer, Melissa Hart, drove home the idea that it is not only the protagonist, but every character in the book that risks something.  And we as writers need to show the readers what is at stake for the various characters—even if it’s just a passing mention or foreshadow for the next book—because characters that have something at stake are in danger of losing something if they gamble on a particular character or course of action.

Ask yourself this simple question , “What is at stake for this character?” If you can answer this question you are a step closer to learning your characters fears, hopes, motivations, and anxieties. You are closer to improving the quality of your writing. You give the readers insight into the minds of your characters and a chance to better understand them. You are a step closer to giving the reader a firm sense of who the characters are.

The writer, Melissa Hart, had a suggestion on how she does this. She creates freewrites based on questions about her characters. What do they love? What motivates them? What do they hide from the world? What are they afraid of?

I’ve also heard of authors doing Character Interviews. For example: Interview the villain about what motivates him. (e.g. Why did you murder X? Why have you sworn revenge on this particular man/family/group of people? What made you decide to run this scam?) ; interview the heroine about what drives her. (e.g. Why is it so important to you to switch jobs? Why do you want to move to a different city? What is it about X that draws you to him? How did you become estranged from your sister?) ; interview characters about a specific aspect of their lives. (e.g. What was the most significant event you can remember from your childhood? What are your political beliefs? Do you have a deep, dark secret? What is one thing that you have done that you would prefer others not to know about? What do you think would be the perfect lifestyle? How quickly can you make decisions?)

Do you have any suggestions?

3 Comments

  1. One thing a friend of mine and I do who write together (nothing serious yet, but maybe someday) is we “talk” the characters, if this makes any sense.

    Like she will say “so and So says this”

    then I’ll shoot back with “well so and so says you better stop or I’ll do this.”

    “Oh yeah, well if you do that, I’ll do this.”

    etc. you’d be surprised how much we learn about them that way! Of course, we come off as kind of crazy, maybe.

    1. Stephannie Beman says:

      I had a friend that I use to do that with. We were writing different stories, but we’d place one of our characters into a stiuation and see how they would react, work together, or try to kill each other. It was a lot of fun and I’m sure people woulld have decided we were mad if they heard any of that conversation. LOL

      1. Bri says:

        It’s always easier to develope characters with another person around, especially someone who thinks differently and has a different personality. I’ve noticed that just recently while developing some characters with my best friend. She’s the complete opposite of me, and when I have trouble with a character, she can fill the spaces.

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