Characters and Your Fiction

There can hardly be a work of fiction without this thing called a ‘character’. But there is a great deal of false and misleading information out there about what a character is and how to devise a successful one. The construction of characters or viewpoints turns out to be much simpler - and stranger - than you might think.

Answering the following questions will guide you towards a better understanding of this building block of fiction.

1. Are you finding it difficult to develop convincing or attractive characters?

What is a ‘convincing character’? Your first thought might be ‘Someone who appears realistic to a reader’. That thought could lead you astray.

‘Realism’ when it comes to character is not a case of building a convincing life-story around someone who you have made up, at least not in terms of facts and figures. You may have composed a detailed biography of a character in your story, or you may have simply created him or her ‘on the fly’. Whatever the case, if the person you’ve ended up doesn’t possess certain very distinct characteristics, your story will falter.

Characters are fundamental tools used by writers to engage and guide readers. If you have the world of ideas under control, those ideas need vessels and those vessels are the ‘made up people’ that inhabit your fiction. But how do you make those figures recognisable and appealing?

How Stories Really Work gives you an outline of the mechanics involved; How to Write Stories That Work - and Get Them Published! gives you a step-by-step methodology for creating them.

2. Do characters often seem weak or ineffective?

Most stories, even simple ones, require a set of characters, not just one. But how can you be sure that the reader’s attention will be on the character who is central to your story? What makes one character senior to another? Are you introducing characters for the sake of it? Do you know what it takes to have the alchemy of characters functioning properly?