Friday, February 14, 2014

For Love of Character

By Sarah R.

While today leaves many of us scrambling after work, in the isle of Safeway for the last pitifully sagging and overpriced bouquets, it also prompts us to think about love. 

The day is a made-up holiday, and forces us to reserve tables and shell out for jewelry to prove our affection but true love doesn’t force itself on us.  True love shows up in thousands of different ways, from mothers and children, to lovers, to friends, and even in the smile of a stranger.

Love, after all, is a many splendored thing.  Love connects, rejects and bolsters.  It drops us, it scars us, and it turns us bitter.  Then somehow, manages to heal us and lift us to heights never before imagined.

Often characters come into my mind, like most loves; unexpected.  They appear one day, the result of a subconscious desire to tell a story.  Creating a character that connects to a reader has a great deal to do with love.  While it’s easy for me to love my characters, even the bad, nasty, and villainous ones (sometimes them more so), how do I make sure that my readers love them too?

When I think back to the books and characters that I’ve loved most, they all carry a common denominator.  The characters are, at heart, intensely human.  They have foibles.  They have histories.  They have imperfections and idiosyncrasies.  They have pain.  They have longing.  They say things that surprise and delight me.  I love them for all they’ve been through and survived.

To get our readers to care about our characters, we have to care about them.  We have to dress them in humanity.  We have to give them a fight to fight, a cause to pursue.  We have to show them falling.  Because we all fall.  We have to show the mistakes that damage them, and the victories that crown them.  We have to show them rise up again, so the reader can rejoice and throw spark to the tinder of their own hope. 

One of the best gifts I’ve received was a notebook that my husband gave me ‘from’ one of my characters.  He understands how much I love her, and how integral she is to my life.  He knows she’s real to me and she’d become real to him in some ways as well.  The connection is the priceless gift.

What are the best ways you’ve found to connect your readers to your characters?


Sarah Sullivan said...

So true. I will not finish a book if I do not care about the character. I don't have to love or even like the character, but I have to see them as a person with dimension and substance and I must understand their motivations. I never like characters who are too perfect or too perfectly flawed. There is a balance that gives the character credibility and holds my interest. Good thoughts.

Shirley Drew said...

Thanks for the comments on character, Sarah! Thinking back to my favorite characters--they are all ones that I can identify with in some way. Like you said, even the "bad" ones...

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