It’s hard to believe how fast time flies. I began my “writing” career way back in 1993, when I stumbled upon my first job as a technical writer. At that time, I never imagined myself writing user manuals and programming guides. But, my diverse interests in technology along with my college experience were a natural fit for that type of work.
Nothing draws us into a book more than vulnerable characters. When people appear wounded or in need of our help, we are instantly drawn to them—it’s a basic human reaction. We may also feel repelled or frightened, but either way, the fact of the matter is that injury to another person instantly triggers a strong response.
Vulnerability may be the result of the character’s deep, dark secret—afraid of the secret being uncovered. Or it may come from the intensity of his need or want—because, as we all know, desire can render us naked in a fundamental way.
Let’s face it, the days of seeing a writer hunched over a desk with a pen and a stack of paper are long gone. Today’s writers can choose from a lot of tools that can help them write better and faster, but before committing to using any of them to write your novel, you should ask yourself “What’s the right tool for me?”
People are full of contradictions. We want things that we don’t have, and we get tired of things that we fought so hard to get. We say we’re going to do one thing, but we end up doing something entirely different. And it’s not just people who behave this way. Contradictions happen everywhere. Just when we think we have a clear understanding of how the world works, it does something entirely different. Drugs developed to cure one ailment cause unexpected side-effects that trigger another. Hurricanes that are projected to head in one direction take an entirely different path.
What’s your character’s deepest, darkest secret? What is it that he or she doesn’t want anyone else to know? When you write your novel, YOU need to know the answer to these questions in order to create a compelling character. A secret is that inclination or trait (such as dishonesty, violence, sexual desire, alcoholism, or drug abuse—just to name a few) or an incident from the past that, if revealed, would change forever your character’s standing among co-workers, neighbors, friends, family, and lovers. Secrets inform the reader of what your character has to lose and why. Here are just a few ways that you can use a secret to help create a compelling character:
Creating interesting characters is arguably the single-most important part of writing a great novel. Characters are what brings a story to life and poorly developed ones can kill it. At the very least, knowing how to create a strong character is as important as plotting your novel. Without a page-turning plot, your readers will soon be—well, not turning the pages at all. But even with a compelling story, the reader will only be interested in “what happens next” if he or she cares about the characters at the heart of the action. That’s what creating characters boils down to—making the reader care.
Well-developed fictional characters have desires—needs, wants, ambitions, and goals—just like real people do. Your characters must want or need something in order to be interesting. And the stronger the character’s desire, the more compelling the resulting drama and the more intriguing the character becomes. This happens because desire intrinsically creates conflict—that crazy stuff that happens inside of your story that helps shape your characters into “people” that your reader can relate to.