When I'm writing a character in one of my novels, I try not to form them into the idea of who I think they should be. While I may have some idea, their true personalities emerge as I get to know them. If I try to force my idea, eventually the true personality will conflict and the plot will form holes. This is a common mistake I see among many writers, myself included.
When I'm writing a new story - I try to brainstorm as much as possible of what I envision for the plot, but I try to keep the main ideas and characterizations in various shades of gray. If I color the story or characters in too much I end up with a huge brown mess. We all know what a stinky situation that would be.
When I'm reading a story - the main factor that keeps me glued to the page is a simple fact of whether or not I actually care for the characters. If by the second or third paragraph I have not already been introduced to a character and can sympathize, feel empathy or outright dislike, most likely I will put the book down and never pick it up again. While there are some great tomes that are action oriented, that's not my preference.
I love Harry Potter because I love Harry Potter and I hate Lord Voldemort. I get bored with The Lord of the Rings because I do not care about a ring or the salvation of a bunch of people I know nothing about. I love Eragon because Paolini allowed me the privilege of being right there beside Eragon as he transformed from a simple farm boy to a fearless dragon-rider. I won’t even mention what Cinda Chima Williams did for the the Demon King with Han, or my how I hoped passionately for Elizabeth Bennett to capture Austen’s Mr. Darcy, or hopelessly fell in love with Dumas’ Edmond Dantes. These stories are great because their characters are great.
Don't get me wrong, I love action. But what good is a great battle without a passionate reason? Just to win is not enough. Sacrifice without heart-felt purpose is meaningless.
As you think about your story this morning, think about the heart of your characters. What do they feel? What do they fear? What are their hopes, their dreams, and their passions? What makes them unique? What drives them? What angers them, makes them lose control, and makes them compromise their values? These are the aspects that draw me into a story.
Till next time,~T. L. Gray