Monday, March 3, 2014

How to Step Up Your Characters So Readers Will Shut-Up, Read, & Remember

We all know our characters need to be well-rounded and jump off the page in order for our readers to both connect with and remember them. Most of us know the basics of character development, but what if you're doing all of that stuff and still feel like your characters are a bit  blah. Here are some tips on how to go above and beyond to make your characters fascinating, empathetic, and memorable.

1) Give 'em quirks. This is where the memorable part comes in. Your readers will remember your characters most for the goofy or eccentric things they do over and over again. Pick something that evokes a sensory reaction--an image, a smell, a visible action, etc. Show it over and over to ingrain it in the reader's mind.

2) Use torturous, scarring moments to define your characters. Now, I tend to do this literally. Many of my characters wear physical scar that they obtained during the most defining moments of their lives, but often the non-physical scars are much more powerful than the physical ones. They are somewhat harder to bring across on the page, requiring more thought and subtlety, but if done right, they tend to be unforgettable.

3) Give them religion. I don't mean organized religion. This can be a system of beliefs that's true to our world, or to the world you build for your story. Make them believe in something--anything--so strongly that they won't give it up for anything. Make it so drastic that, if their system of beliefs proves justified, it will mean triumph, but if it's flawed, it will mean their downfall. Either option can make for a fascinating story and an unforgettable character.

4) Make sure their actions are in line with their beliefs and goals, even if their words are not. This one's tricky, but can be highly effective. Check out my post about this if you are't familiar with OODs (Objects of Desire). In short, they're what the characters want, both in an overall, metaphysical sense, and literally, in the framework of the story. Sometimes the audience might not understand what a character was truly trying to accomplish until the end of the book. That's fine. But make sure their actions always point to it, even if the reader doesn't realize it.

As the saying goes, your character can lie about 5 things, but will make 10,000 decisions that are truthful. 

Even if the character is deceptive to other characters in the story, make sure the reader sees the actions that are truthful. This will make him not only a true reflection of a real human being, but intriguing to no end.

If you already have the core of your characters down, use these suggestions to take your characters to the next level. They'll captivate readers, grip them by the chest and refuse to let go.

Have you ever used any of these techniques in your writing?


  1. Thanks for the tips. I have a couple blah characters that need help.

    1. Sure thing, Alex! Thanks for dropping by. :D