Writing Top Tips: The trick to writing characters readers fall in love with

In this blog, I will be sharing with you my five favourite characters from fiction and why I think they are awesome.

I’ve spent a lot of last weeks reading. Having a cold sucked a lot, (especially since it was only my second week in my new job and I was gross and grumpy) but one of the upsides was that I took as much time as possible to rest and thus had some time to catch up on my reading.

I’ve been re-reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and it got me thinking that Karou is one of the best character’s I’ve read in a long time. It made me think, what is it that makes a character into a favourite character? For me anyway I find it hard to pin down, so I have spent time thinking about what makes good and bad characters.

Worst Offenders

Perhaps it is best to outline the worst offenders first. The worst offenders, in my opinion, have to be the ‘Mary Sues’ of the world. By definition, a Mary-Sue is a fictional character who is perfect. They are usually two-dimensional and lack substance. Typical characteristics are that these characters are amazingly attractive, have outrageous or clichéd names, have unlimited power/intelligence/finances and are either loved or hated by everyone depending on whether the character is a dark horse or not. However, it isn’t this that makes them bad characters, plenty of great books and films with characters who are ‘perfect’ at their heart. What makes a Mary Sue bad is that the story revolves around them. It’s ok to have a perfect character if the story is separate from them.

But even so, even with the best story, Mary-sues are still something to be criticised and to avoid.

Below are my tips on how to avoid creating a Mary Sue.

Names

First of all, remember that first impressions count for a lot, and so do names. Choosing a name is a difficult thing to do there is no denying this, but that’s no excuse for giving your character an overly fantastic and unrealistic name. Things to remember are the character’s background, location, and upbringing all these things influence a name.

Stereotypes

Stereotypes are lazy, avoid them. Or if you feel you need to use them then mix it up. Make the stereotypical terrifying super villain a twelve-year-old boy, like Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl.

Flaws

Remember that real people, and thus good characters, have flaws. No one is perfect, give your characters flaws. Do not be afraid of flaws; they give your character depth and something to overcome.  Let your character’s make mistakes; no one goes through life without making any errors.

Dramatic Function

Give your character a dramatic purpose, tie them into the plot of your novel, and make them matter.

Get to know your character

Get to know your character. Even if it never comes up in your story, you should be aware your character inside and out. You will know how they should react to every situation and why. Once you get to know your character, stick to the personality given to them. Do not make them a cautious individual who suddenly and for no explained reason does something unbelievably reckless. To do this, you should research your character. A good example is if you’re writing a story about a young soldier, but you’ve never had any experience of a war zone yourself. Do your research, but don’t just limit your research to people, learn about living conditions, weaponry, and training, everything that will help shape your character.

Empathy

Give your readers something to emphasise with. They will connect better with your character if they can identify with them.

Growth

Finally, have your character grow and develop during your story. This can be anything, they could have a revelation, they could overcome a flaw, or they could overcome a physical obstacle.

Favourite characters

I have spent a lot of time talking about what you should and shouldn’t do, in my opinion, to make good characters with depth and feeling. But I’d like to give you examples of some of my favourite characters.

D, from Vampire Hunter D

He’s been dealt a rough hand, a half-blood vampire, loved by neither Vampires nor humans. But rather than mope about he travels across the frontier battling vampires, a hunter for hire. He’s not a ‘happy’ character, but he’s not an ‘angry’ character either.

Samuel Vimes, from Discworld

He’s a human in a ‘magical’ world, has fought dragons, politics, and prevented a war. His nickname of Vetinari’s terrier is apt, once he gets the scent, he never let’s go. His determination and fortitude make him a joy to read, especially when they are turned towards making sure he gets home on time every night to read to his son ‘where’s my cow.’

Anna, from Alpha and Omega Series

I’ve been reading Patricia Briggs a lot lately. I love her urban fantasy stories, her Mercy Thomson series is wonderful, but even more so I love her Alpha and Omega stories with Charles and Anna. I love these stories because the characters are wonderful. I instantly fell in love with Anna, she’s in an awful situation when we first meet her, but she never comes across as a victim. She’s alone and afraid, and she’s pissed off about it, and she has a witty banter in her head that makes me smile despite what’s happening to her. Then we meet Charles. Charles. Is. Awesome. That is the best (and only) word to describe him, awesome.

I emphasise with Anna, she’s a nice person in an awful situation, but she’s not sitting there moaning (that would be boring) she’s fighting it in her way. She’s not strong enough physically, but she has nifty little ways to get a mental one up on those responsible for her situation. I can also relate to her, I understand her motivations and understand them, I can see why she wants what she wants, and I root for her. She also has depth; she’s not a two-dimensional character, she has good strengths and bad faults. She is not perfect; she is excruciatingly real.

Anna is a fantastic character, when we meet her she is beaten, abused and fearful, but by the end of the first book, she’s defeated a witch who had one of the most powerful wolves of her new pack running in terror for hundreds of years. I think I like Anna as much as I do because I can relate to her on several levels, she has depths that make her a fantastic character, whether she’s fighting wolves and witches or overcoming an anxiety attack.

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, from the Dresden Files

Harry’s wit is what drew me to him initially. But what kept him on my favourites list is how ‘real’ he is (despite the fact he’s a wizard). He’s your regular blue collar working Joe put in extraordinary situations that he survives through quick thinking, sarcastic banter and, of course, a dash of magic.

Bigwig, from Watership Down

A childhood favourite. When I was little, my parents read Watership down to me, and I instantly fell in love with Bigwig. He was a bunny, but he was tough, his strength and fearless nature were at odds with everything I thought of when I thought of bunnies, and I liked it. Something cute and fluffy could be strong. Bigwig set the standard for me when it came to surprising strength. Ever since I’ve always liked characters, who are traditionally ‘weaker’ than those around them but turn out to be fighters and survivors.

Who are your favourite characters and why?

Katie Marie wrote a Book. A big one and a couple of little ones. Check them out!

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2 thoughts on “Writing Top Tips: The trick to writing characters readers fall in love with

  1. Pingback: Writing rants: Lost In My World – Katie Marie

  2. Pingback: Top Easy Tips on Crafting Settings – Katie Marie

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