Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making Your Characters Appealing

The last several weeks we’ve been taking a closer look at the story people in your novel.

On May 5th we covered "breathing life into your characters." Last week was about "giving your characters knowledge." Everyone has left wonderful comments that contributed to the discussion. I hope you'll do the same today.

This week we’re going to look at making your characters appealing.

Don’t you love to watch beautiful people? Of course, that’s why Hollywood is so popular. We like to watch beautiful people and what they do. We find them fascinating.

But think about this…would they make appealing characters to follow in a book? Novels deal with not only what pleases the eye, but also emotions that stir within the character.

Emotions are universal. Most everyone has a temper it’s just that some people take longer to reach their boiling point than others. Most everyone feels compassion, though some have a thicker skin. And most everyone yearns to have noble characteristics, though some are sadly lacking.. What's interesting in fiction is that readers identify with characters they admire and think they see in themselves. Though they may not have courage, they are attracted to characters who do…because they see themselves. This has to do with what Dwight Swain calls wish fulfillment. He also says that the real reason you find a character exciting and fascinating is his [the character's] story activities satisfies some aspect of your own emotional hunger. You identify because unconsciously you envy the courage of the character who challenges the world and fate.

So make your characters appealing by giving them admirable traits your readers will identify with.

Who are some of the characters you’ve greatly admired in novels?

I'll share one of mine. I'm a huge fan of Francine Rivers' series Mark of the Lion. One character I absolutely loved was Hadassah in the book, An Echo in the Darkness. She was a Jewish slave, who was brave, kind, gentle, nurturing and had unshakable faith. This cover is just how I pictured her in my mind.

Now tell me one of yours.


  1. I wrote a post about the same thing (last night) to schedule it for todays post. I covered characters that I love and why. Stories are most meaningful when you care about the characters.

  2. Amanda, it must be in the air. ;) I'll have to hop over and see what you said.

  3. I have a hard time really falling in love with a character. But it all comes down to - can I relate with this character? Then I like them. =)

  4. Carolyn, relating to a character is soooo important. I'm especially attracted to characters who have traits I admire. That's why I really liked what Dwight Swain said about it. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I love Scarlett O'Hara and Hermione Granger. In Scarlett, I don't like her selfishness or how she treated people, but what I admire is her courage, strength, and perseverance to get what she wanted! Three qualities writers need for sure.

    And Hermione is loyal, super smart, follows the rules, and never apologizes for it. Love that!

  6. Laura, those are great characters! I, too, liked Scarlett's courage. And what's not to like about Hermione. She's a wonderful character.

  7. I relate more to realistic characters complete with flaws more than the beautiful, perfect ones.

  8. For me characters are the whole point in reading and writing. It's all about them - plot and everything else are secondary.

    One of favourite characters of all time is Anne of Green Gables. She has so many wonderful characteristics. She's fun, bold, willing to take risks, willing to live her life to the fullest, willing to be herself, willing to make great big glorious mistakes!

  9. Jaydee, I like flawed characters, too, but there has to be some redeemable trait for readers to like them. They might not be beautiful, but that one trait needs to appeal to the readers. Thanks for the comment and making such a good point.

  10. Jemi, I agree, Anne was very appealing in so many ways. Thanks for stopping by. :0)



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