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How to Create Compelling Characters



Without a compelling main character, your writing will fall flat. Here are three fun and easy ways to enhance them.

For me, main characters present a unique problem: my secondaries want to take over. And maybe they should. So that’s:

TIP #1: Try changing your secondary character to a main, and vice versa. 

What a shocking idea, right? But you might discover the story flows more naturally, that the new main character is much more interesting.

Whether main or secondaries, they’re flat if they have no goal or driving need. The thing that stands in the way of them reaching that goal is a shortcoming. What are your character’s shortcomings? Here’s one way to find out:

TIP #2: Picture yourself as a therapist, talking to your character. 

Here are some questions you might ask:

  • What is the big mistake you keep making with your life?  (Authors who draw a blank might reread this post on negative character traits.)
  • How has that messed things up for you?
  • Why do you keep doing it?
  • What or who prevents you from changing?

Then ask yourself, as the creator of this fictional world:

  • What might occur to open her eyes?
  • Who might come along to help or impede her as she tries to grow, change, and thrive?
  • What are her choices, and how will she resist them?
  • What foolish mistakes might she make on the way to enlightenment?

Now, let’s go to a third-person investigation of the character. One of the best ways to explore a character is to:

TIP #3: Write a scene where two or three other characters discuss your main character.

musician, Cuba, beach, writer

Imagine they’re walking along the beach, trying to figure out why your main character acts like such a doormat, dummy, or dictator. They’re shaking their heads and wondering what is her problem, anyway. Maybe they feel sympathy (why?), anger (why?), or determination to do something (what?)

By having her friends talk behind her back, you might not only get the answer to her psyche, but some delicious secondary-character situations as well. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

For more ideas on character development, check out this excellent list by Justine Musk(This post was shared by Lynne Spreen.)

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