Monday Missive: Write Tips

Connecting Your Audience to Your Character/s

Questions to Think About:
1. What makes a character interesting?
2. What characters in novels, film, or in theatre have appealed to you or engaged you?
3. What is it about that character’s personality or background hooked you into the story?
4. How is the story told that make the characters believable?

Random thoughts on Character Development

Recently I had the offer to borrow some characters. A new concept, I’d never considered borrowing characters for any of my novels before. Would I want to do them? They’re like my children, my characters, born out of my world, my experiences and often a mixture of people I know. Anyway, I suppose I have an abundance of my own characters—not that the ones offered weren’t good characters. Then again, if truth be told, I do just that, and not just borrow, but adopt characters, from film and television, without the creator’s consent. It happens to the best of authors; intentionally and unintentionally, a character resonates with them and they create a story around that character.

Or is it the other way around? I spend days dreaming up a character, their story, their personality, and I write their bio and weave them into my novel. Then, I’m watching a television show, and there they are, my character, as if the script writers have plucked them straight from my computer—even before they ever appear on my blog.
If this has happened to you take comfort. It’s a good thing. There are recurring stories and themes common to us all. It’s part of being human. In Anthropology, I learnt about the “collective consciousness”. Characters who resonate and connect with the audience, are ones who reflect best what it is to be human. Such characters occur again and again, different authors, different books, same character because the reader can relate to them.

So, in developing your character:

1. Create a character to whom the audience can relate. The heroine for whom the sensor-hand-dryer in the bathroom won’t work, but will work for everyone else. Had a scene in the TV series, Fargo Season 3 like that. I laughed because this sort of thing happens to me all the time. Think of situations common to your world and shape your characters around those situations.
2. Think of interesting people around you. Blend them. Start with them. As you write and create, new ones will emerge out from the depths of your creativity.
3. Avoid all good, can-do-no-wrong “Mary Sue” characters, and stereotypical-evil Dastardly Dick characters. Make your heroes and villains interesting by blending the good, bad and quirky. For example, Mary Sue can have a dark side or secret, and DD can have some good qualities in certain circumstances and is kind to kittens.
4. Pick your character’s Point of View. Try out the story in first person and then third person. Read out loud the results and listen to what works best for your characters. First person POV is immediate and intense for the reader, but limited as all the action has to be with the POV character present. With third person POV, the characters have more freedom to tell the story, but with less depth of getting into the character’s mind. Third person also gives the author opportunity to tell the story from several character’s point of view with objectivity in seeing characters from another character’s perspective. Some authors, such as George R.R. Martin in the Game of Thrones series tell the story from the POV of several characters, each chapter titled with that character’s name.
5. Names are key to connecting the audience with the characters. Names either hook the reader into the story or leave them disengaged. Names help the reader anticipate the character’s personality and describe their background. Remember to pick names that are relevant to time and place in which the story is set. A book which I have found helpful: The Secret Meaning of Names by Pierre Le Rouzic. It’s available on Amazon.
In summary, then, observe life, people, and read, read, read, and from all that you absorb, you will make characters that engage the audience.

Bring character and life to an inanimate object.
For example: *
• A computer by the name of a famous dictator that keeps giving its owner grief.
• Holden car by the name of Bathsheba, Dad’s faithful friend that makes Mum jealous.
• A city by the name of Adelaide, a hopeful queen, but ignored by the eastern states.
• A toaster called Ralph that wants attention.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017

Photo: Teddy Bear Tea Party © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013


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