Friday, September 24, 2010

How to Write Compelling Characters

I am participating in Elana Johnson's blog experiment today.  She has an interesting topic running on her site which is, How to Write Compelling Characters.

I've spent most of today really thinking about this (I mean really pondering; there are already almost two hundred people ahead of me on this topic) in a way that I'm not even sure if someone else has already mentioned it.

I was able to read a few of the then 184 participant's ways of making their characters compelling and I think they all did a great job and I agree with them.

Here are my two cents:

I enjoy following characters (main or sidekicks) who surprise me.  Of course, I like to be able to relate to these characters as a reader but it's enjoyable to come across a character who has an opinion that I don't necessarily agree with.  Maybe it's the main character but maybe it's the sidekick who occasionally reacts to a situation in the opposite way I would in the same situation. 

There are several ways to achieve this type of surprise element with a character:  Get loud in the library, hate something most people like, be funny at an inappropriate time, etc..  Try not to make your character annoying; nothing in excess, but surprise the reader.  Inevitably this will make them flawed in a charming or compelling way. 

In The Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maass he has the writer think about something the protagonist or antagonist would NEVER do and then have them do that in the story.  It's a great book for going back through your story and pulling out the types of compelling qualities you might not have thought of yet.

Okay, I have to go back and read some more ways to write compelling characters.  Have fun writing!

21 comments:

  1. Those who surprise are very intriguing. A character that keeps you on your toes is where it's at! Great job on your thoughts to a compelling character!

    Thanks for participating! Elana no longer has to lose a kidney.

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  2. I love the surprises too. And great advice from Mr. Maass.

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  3. I do enjoy surprises in books!

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  4. I love how you mentioned that the character should surprise the reader! Surprises are so good and throw an awesome curve ball in a story. I also love that you mentioned Donald Maass. I've read his Writing the Breakout Novel, but I didn't know he had a workbook! Thanks for the info :)

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  5. I'm totally going to try having my character actually do something I'm pretty sure they wouldn't. Then you back up and figure out what got them to that point. Insta-plot twist. Love it!

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  6. I really love the Donald Maass book you referred to. It's a great resource!
    And I agree, suprises--unexpected but logical really keep a reader interested in the story. Thanks!

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  7. Thank you everyone for commenting. I'm really enjoying everyone's posts as well. I've already picked up so many tips and new ways at creating characters.

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  8. I like that, write what the character would never so. That's great. I'm going to try it sometime.

    CD

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  9. Surprises are my absolute favorite thing! When I am surprised.....that book goes on my recommendations list immediately. I'm hard to surprise because I'm one of those controlling people who NEED to know everything before it happens... so if I can't figure out a book - or I think I have and a character surprises me? Eternal love.

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  10. Suprises do make for compelling characters and compelling reading!

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  11. Suprises do make for compelling characters and compelling reading!

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  12. Flawed in a charming and compelling way. Love it!!! :)

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  13. Great post! Yes, surprises are definitely endearing!

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  14. Yerp the eliment of surprise is what keeps us reading a book, or going back to read it again!
    Thanks for poping by to I see you see and commenting.

    I find some great characters by simply looking around me when im every day situations. Check out my post about Teddy. He was a guy that i saw on the bus who seemed frindly enough but he wasnt wearing a wedding ring and I wonderd why.

    http://blackrosesee.blogspot.com/2010/09/hes-not-teddy-bear-hes-very-naughty-boy.html

    Turned out he's a drug dealer, cheater, and possibly a wife killer who knew?

    Have a great weekend your new friend serena x

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  15. If I'm reading a story I like the surprise elelment. As a poetry writer I have on occasions written some with a surprise elelment.
    I found your post very interesting.

    Enjoy your week-end;

    Yvonne.

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  16. I like that idea. We're always intrigued by the people who go against the norm - the daring ones. That would work just as easily for a character in a novel.

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  17. Great post...Having a twist (surprise) is an important component in a story....

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  18. I just stopped in again and realized I wasn't following you! I fixed that!

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  19. A lack of predictability - good trait!
    Thanks for participating in our blogfest. Never let the masses intimidate you. And if I could post about this topic, anyone can!

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  20. I like the idea of forcing the character to do something they normally wouldn't. Talk about added drama! Great post.

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  21. And now a surprise from the past: I'm still wandering thru the Compelling Character Blogfest as I have the chances to do so.

    A memorable surprise that makes a character stand out is certainly one approach a writer can take. Sometimes they just have to do something that will catch our attention and make us remember them.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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