Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#227) -- Making Characters Interesting

How do you make characters interesting/appealing to readers?

Who will you create today? (Art by Andrew Dickman)

Perhaps the best advice I ever got about this question came from Chuck Dixon. He said to always give a reader something to like about a villain and something to dislike about a hero. In other words, keep them real. There are no purely good or purely bad people. Deep down, even Mother Teresa would fess up to occasion struggles with at least some of the seven deadly sins. And even Hitler loved Eva Braun.

Another trick that helps me keep my characters interesting is to give them personality or even physical quirks that make them seem more like people you could round a corner and bump into. For example, I have a friend who bites down on her bottom lip just before she laughs. I thought that was cute, and that trait has worked its way into my characters a few times throughout the years.

But the most important and essential way to make characters interesting and appealing to a reader is to give them a strong and compelling story arc that takes them through a worthwhile struggle and change, even if they ultimately fail. Readers resonate with struggle and the fight to accomplish something, whether it's trying to destroy an evil ring, win a heavyweight boxing match, or connect with an estranged daughter. Put your characters in a gripping story with plenty of opportunities to succeed or fail, and you'll find them becoming more interesting even to you -- not just your readers.