What’s more important than character? Nothing.
As Warren Buffet once said, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” In life, your reputation is of utmost importance; it is your character. And it’s not so different in fiction. Characters (People) are the most important part of any story—short, long, realistic, or fantastic. Readers want to know about and relate to the characters. Then and only then will they follow along with the adventure you’ve created for them.
I’ve made the analogy that characters in novels are like people in photos: people will look longer at other people than they do at even the most beautiful landscape. Likewise, no matter how beautiful the writer’s prose, if she doesn’t create fascinating, believable, relatable characters, then readers won’t really care about the story. Have you ever noticed (of course you have) how much longer we focus on ourselves in pictures than we do on anything else? It’s the same with characters in a novel; people want to see themselves in the characters. They want to say, Yes, I do that, too! I’ve thought the same thing. I feel exactly like that.
A brilliant writer will then do horrible things to the characters so the reader is compelled to see who triumphs in the end. Bingo—bestseller!
But it’s not quite that easy. So …
This weekend I will be taking a class at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City on Creating Compelling Characters with Jonathan Blum where I will learn to make my characters just exactly like YOU.
I sure hope you’ve been nice to me over the years—because not all characters triumph in the end. Some die.