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Hi, I'm Jamie. I'm a writer, reader, and huge TV junkie. I just might post about all three here on this blog. Have a look around. And if you want, drop me an email and tell me what you think. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, September 24, 2010

writing compelling characters

So unless you've been living beneath a Blog Rock for the past week or so, you've already heard of The Great Blogging Experiment being hosted by Elana J, Alex C, and Jennifer D (holy links, Batman!). Today these three outstanding blogs - and about 175 more - are all discussing something that I'm sure every writer on the planet has struggled with at one time or another...writing compelling characters. So, I thought why not? I'll join in the discussion and throw my .05 cents in. Bare with me, folks.

Writing Compelling Characters
 
There have been books written that have less-than-thrilling plots and those that have high-action, never-let-up plots. But the one thing in all those books that pushes them over the line of success is their characters. The characters reach inside us and never let go, pulling us along on their journey to the point where we feel what they feel as they experience whatever is in their path.

Everyone says that characters have to be human - complete with emotions and reactions and yes, even flaws. And I 100% agree. But I also think there's an element to characters that humans typically don't have that draws a reader in - their ability to say and do what we all only wish we could.

So my advice on creating a compelling character is to make them better than us. Make them stronger, weaker, more in-tune, more capable, nicer, meaner...you get the idea. Like Elana J says on her blog today, exaggerate their humanity. Your character needs to feel things and express things and experience things in a way that we would either a) love to or b) hate to. The person reading your story wants to root for your character (or despise your villain)...and you want that person to imagine themselves in your story. Having a character who exemplifies humanity in every way will certainly achieve that.

But this is just my opinion...what do you think?





23 comments:

  1. I think you rocked this experiment! It's important to remember that though you characters need to remain relateable they also need that sense of confidence that most of us didn't have when we were in High School (if you write YA).

    Great job! Thanks for joining the experiment!

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  2. Thanks Jen! And I totally agree...even though your characters are flawed and have insurmountable odds, they need to be better at handling them than we would be!

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  3. Ooh, I liked this! Character should be something we wish we could be, not just something we relate with. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Spot on! My favorite characters are always the ones I wish I could be. Still human, but slightly better at it than I am ;)

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  5. Or perhaps like we hope we'd be should we be thrown into similar circumstances.

    Well done. :)

    Happy weekend,
    Lola

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  6. I never thought about it like that, but it's so true. I agree 100%, the most compelling characters are the ones who do the things we wish we could do. And also probably one of the reasons most of us love reading/writing so much - the escape from reality. Great post!

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  7. "....you want that person to imagine themselves in your story." I love that, Jamie! Great post!

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  8. This resonated with me: "their ability to say and do what we all only wish we could." I want my people to say and do what I wish I could. Or that I would never be able to say and do. This is the exact reason I write.

    You nailed it.

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  9. Yes! I agree that ALL character traits should be exaggerated. Good post! :-)

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  11. Sorry about that...hit the wrong key! Thanks so much for the comments. It's great that you guys took something away from this. And a big thanks to Elana J (and gang!) for this experiment...it was awesome!

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  12. I think the larger-than-life aspects of characters are what makes them compelling. You said it nicely when you said: "their ability to say and do what we all only wish we could." Thanks!

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  13. Characters do need to be us + more. I love the way you expressed it. You summed it up so nicely.

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  14. Nicely said, I love your comment - ' reach inside of us and pull us in'. Very true. Every time I pick up a book, I want it to do that! ;)

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  15. Good idea. In a way, we need to write a realistic character with some exaggerated yet still believable traits.

    glad I found this blog!

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  16. You're right the characters have to be "better" than real life or "worse." Enough to keep us interested...They have to have a better secret or at least we have to think it is...

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  17. Thanks for the comments, guys. It's so nice to see that people got something from what I said! And thanks for the new followers...you guys made my 1st contest go off!

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  18. Interesting idea, making them better than us. Great post :)

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  19. I totally agree. Most people read as a form of escape. We don't want to read characters who remind us too much of ourselves. We want to aspire and admire as we go through a novel.

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  20. I loved your post, I agree that characters have to leap of the page and grab you, great imagry.

    You hit the nail again when you said that our characters should be better than us. Ill certainly be keeping that in mind when i write my next story.

    Well done



    Well done!

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  21. This is good post! I guess all novels are some sort of fantasy, maybe for the writer or reader. Okay, not all but what you said is great : )

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  22. Make them better than us - love it. So true. Great post.

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  23. I agree that reading is a form of escape and that readers want characters who can fulfill their secret wishes. Good post.

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