“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
- Walt Disney
There is a lot more to a novel than just the opening. Openings are, of course, important. But so much more goes into your novel. Things you need to consider before you begin, even if you’re a pantser—not a plotter.
Characters. Without engaging characters, there is no story. What makes for engaging characters? Well, you may have read Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict, better known as GMC.
The most ordinary of men (or Women) who have a serious goal, and are motivated properly to attain it, will provide more story than you can handle if the conflict is their journey to HEA.
So, exactly how do we choose characters and what do we need to know about them?
This task—choosing characters to tell your story, is critical because nine out of ten times, when readers are asked what they liked best about a story they will say the “character.” Hero, Heroine, doesn’t matter. They’ll be able to tell you everything about the character they loved.
Anyone who has ever written has a method or a style of creating a character. Some do interviews, fill out long lists of traits, start with a physical description. Most of these styles for inventing a character do not matter. The affect these characteristics, whether they are looks, habits, environment, etc. only matter in so much as how they affect your character and his evolution as a person. Does his good looks, or his facial scarring affect how he interacts with others?
It takes many events, some environment and flaws as well as enviable qualities to mold a character into a memorable character.
So what’s in a name? Character names often have an audible connection to our readers. Don’t believe me? Is Dirk more a man of action, or do you like Bob better? Hard consonants denote sharp angles and fast action, definitive edges. Dirk’s our Alpha hero and Bob is his best friend, a beta character.
Naming is almost an art form, but so much goes into choosing a name we’ll cover that in a separate blog.
So since you are essentially the “god” of the novel world, the question isn’t so much who are your characters, but who do you need them to be.
Every character has goal, even if those goals change during the course of your story. In fact, goals will most likely change as your characters learn and grow, moving through the storyline, eventually becoming the unforgettable characters we all long to create. Every action which is well motivated becomes not only believable but necessary for that character to achieve his or her story goal.
Properly motivated characters make the readers care about them and want to “see them succeed”. This ability to understand why the hero does what he does, allows us to empathize with them at best and sympathize with them when we cannot identify more closely. But the ability to create this link, this is all you need to create unforgettable characters.
This motivation applies to all characters. Yes, that’s correct, not only the secondary characters, but the walk on roles need to be motivated. Villains especially need to be motivated. Most commonly we find the motivation for our characters in their history, or backstory.
So tell me, how do you go about creating unforgettable characters?