Greetings and Salutations notorious readers,

It appears one of the many personalities in my head has decided to post three times a week. With that in mind I/we have decided to switch gears a little and talk about Fictional Characters. Friday I have a special surprise for you so please keep tuning in. Monday we will begin a new short story.

Let’s get started. Writing, is something almost everyone does. We write lists, memos, letters, cards, emails, blogs, reports, journals, notes and messages on rest room walls. So, when you declare to a friend that you’re a writer, you get this quizzical look. So, who isn’t?

Story tellers is a better description of what writers do. We tell stories in the hope of entertaining someone. Of course we write these stories down, which is where the confusion comes in, but we do much more than write. I’m getting to the point here soon, promise.

Writers create characters, who readers either love or hate, luke-warm is the death knell for a character. Writers create worlds where these characters must endear themselves to the reader. Worlds of endless sidetracks and total derailment to keep the character fighting for, honor, glory, God and country, or the girl.

In my humble opinion, character driven stories are the most compelling. No matter how rich and diverse your world, what turns the pages for me, are the characters that populate that world.

A character must create emotion in the reader. This is not optional. If the reader loses interest in my characters the battle is lost. Once the reader starts wondering anything except what an unbelievable asshole my character is,  I’ve failed. My story then becomes a replacement for that broken leg on grandma’s favorite chair.

What do you think? Are characters important to you when you read? Or do you prefer a verbal description of a landscape or a bowl of wax fruit when you pick up a book?

For the next couple of Wednesdays we’ll discuss what makes a character likable or unlikable. What compels you to read long after your logical brain tells you to put the book down, because you have to get up early. What gives your characters a distinctive voice or do they all sound the same? Are they conflicted? Do they even know what they want? Do they want what the reader wants for them? Are they motivated or just doing what’s expected?

What attracts readers to a character? Let’s take the underdog for instance. The reader identifies with a well-meaning character who is on the wrong side of every door. This will hold them for five or ten pages. In those five or ten pages a writer must give the character a personality, a goal, and an obstacle. The reader has to hurt for this poor schlep.

Once the reader feels his pain the hook is set. Now’s the time to spin a subplot or two. An obstacle can be overcome only to be replaced by a larger one dead ahead. You can have his heart-broken by a heartless woman or grieving the death of the only woman who ever loved him.

I know, sounds cruel, but in the end, the character flourishes. He grows, he lives to love again, and defeats the evil villain.

One of my favorite fictional characters is Judas Coyne, from Joe Hill’s novel A Heart Shaped Box. Judas is an aging ex-rocker, he is a self-absorbed survivor of an industry that promotes live hard and die young. He managed the former and escaped the later with his ego mostly intact. BUT, I care what happens to Jude, by the time I got to page five I felt his pain. I wanted a better life for him than seclusion, surrounded by empty relationships. I read until my eyes bled that night.

Tell me about your own favorite characters. Who are they and why do you remember them. Have you gone back to read the novel again or was once enough. I’ll post your comments here and we’ll have some fun.

I’ll leave you with this little gem from Elmore Leonard.

“Psychopaths… people who know the differences between right and wrong, but don’t give a shit. That’s what most of my characters are like.”
― Elmore Leonard

Thanks for tuning in,

Dave Benneman


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>