I was in
On Sunday I taught a workshop on fictional characters and since it was the first time I taught it, I’ve been fine-tuning it in my head ever since. As a follow-up to the workshop here are 10 tips for creating memorable characters.
When a story comes to life for a reader it is because the writer has created fascinating characters that linger in the reader’s memory and imagination long after the story is over.
1.Because fiction is written in the language of the heart, bestow a compelling vulnerability in your protagonist and possibly other cast members. You see, we don’t read fiction to follow the lives of perfect people who float through their days on a sea of bliss. We don’t read fiction to applaud from the sidelines as a hero who never missteps, but instead sails to an easy victory. Nor do we read fiction to follow people in the midst of goodness, luck, success and joy. Instead, we read to wallow in a character’s heartbreaks and struggles, to plunge into his or her emotional depths, experiencing the doubts, worries, and pains.
2. Give all your major players an agenda. Juan is looking for the woman of his dreams, and thinks he has found her in Marie, but because of her troubled dating history, she is fearful of intimacy and incapable of trust. An amazing example of a group of characters with opposing agendas can be found in Charlie Huston’s Six Bad Things which rollicks around a bag of cash that the Russian mob wants back. Stir in drug dealers and thugs and bad asses, a stripper named Sandy, Federales and vigilantes and you’ve got squalid tale and speed-dial action.
You can bestow on your character flaming red hair, an endearing, crooked grin and a penchant for chocolate and noir movies, but if she doesn’t want something badly, she’s merely a prop in your story, not a driving force. But if she wants to win the Miss Florida contest, take over her boss’ job, or become the first female shortstop
for the Atlanta Braves, then you’ve got a character who will make things happen and a story that will be propelled by desire.