We all love characters.
They are what we root for in a story. They’re what we fall in love with. They’re the element in a story that breaks are heart, tears it in two, and stomps all over it. They have so much power in a story:–power to complete it, or power to make it fall apart.
Some people say that plot is more important than the characters, and I agree that it is important. But you wouldn’t even have a plot if you didn’t have a character. It’s my opinion that characters are the most important element of a story. Without them, you wouldn’t have a story.
Daunting, isn’t it? Because since the characters are the most important part of a story, you want to get them right. You want them to feel real, raw, and emotional to your reader. How can we achieve this though?
Well, there’s a few ways that can make all the difference…
Flesh Out Your Character’s Internal Struggles
Every character struggles with something. Every person struggles with something. By figuring out what that struggle is, you will unlock the key to what makes readers love them. However, you don’t have to make their struggle some big call to adventure. Maybe that’s what fits your genre and what you want to do, but don’t forget the beauty in the little things.
For example, Anne of Green Gables is about a twelve year old girl who wants a place to belong and call home. That’s Anne’s whole struggle throughout the book. Simple, but yet so impactful. Because everyone can relate to the feeling of wanting to belong.
Similarly, in Great Expectations Pip struggles with his low station in life and works to better himself. I think everyone has longed for a better life at one time or another. So a lot of people can relate or at least sympathize with Pip’s struggle.
But how do you come up with each characters struggle? It actually isn’t as difficult as you might think. A person’s struggle, the thing the character will be wrestling with throughout the whole of the story, is made of up three simple things. Fear, desire, and misbelief.
Everybody has a fear deep down inside them that, without them realizing it, is fueling everything they do in life. You have a fear that is channeling all of your decisions and thought processes. However, just as you can’t sit there and think what your greatest fear in the world is, neither can your character.
Come up with your character’s greatest fear but don’t tell them. Whatever you do, don’t let your characters come right out and say their fears. That will make your story feel fake.
On the flip side, everybody has a desire as well. This one will be easy however because it’s almost always the opposite of their fear. For example, desire: to be loved, fear: of opening their heart to someone else. See what I mean?
Don’t be scared to say what their desire is. This is the thing that they will be chasing after in the story so it will have to become known. However, find a crafty way to show their desire so that it doesn’t feel like you’re speaking directly to the audience. Again, that will make your story feel fake instead of real.
Once you have your character’s fear and desire, you can then craft their misbelief. This is the way they view the world. This is the lie they’re believing throughout the story and the thing that will have to come to a climax at the end of the story so that they can end the book a new person.
For example, if we took the earlier fear and desire we were using: to be loved, and scared of opening their heart to someone else, then their misbelief might be that no one can be trusted or something similar. Suddenly, you not only can feel so much more from your character, but you can also create a meaningful and impacting story.
Get Into the Character’s Head
You’re going to be spending the length of your story with this character whether that’s a flash fiction or a full length novel. While some people simply jump in and figure it out as they go, I like to get into my characters head a bit before taking the plunge. A great way you can do this is by having character conversations with your characters.
This might sound a bit weird but hear me out. When I first heard of doing this I was skeptical, but when I actually gave it a try, I can’t imagine not doing it anymore. You can do this either with yourself and the character, or you can buddy up with a writer friend and each pick a character for them to chat. This is such a fun way to get into your character’s head before starting your novel! (Or even if you’re in the middle of your novel already but having trouble connecting to you character, this it a lot of fun!)
Other ways include writing flash fiction or backstory for your characters. I enjoy trying both as they are both great ways discover your character before starting a novel with them.
Make it Your Own
If you haven’t gotten the point of this article then let me say it again: characters are the heart of every story and without them your story will fall a part. We want them to be relatable, raw, and emotion. We want our character to be the next Anne Shirley or Mr. Darcy that still have fandoms even after all these years.
But that can be intimidating. The truth is, you can’t go into a story having all these expectations. If you do, then you snuff out the character’s life before you even begin. Maybe your character will be the next Darcy, or maybe it won’t. But it will be yours and you will have fans, even if that fandom is small.
The goal isn’t to reach millions, it’s to touch a single life with your words.
At least that’s my goal.
So don’t skip over character development when you’re planning your story. If anything, spend the most time in this area than any other. This is by far the most important element to any story because it’s only through characters that we have plot, theme, setting, and everything else that makes a story. And without a truly meaningful character, the whole story will fall flat.
Feel the character. Love it as if it’s your new best friend. Because if you do not love your own character, then chances are neither will your readers. Write about a character that means something to you personally. Write a story that creates a fire inside you to where you will you would die if you couldn’t get this story out.
Write that story. And don’t give up on it.
Tell me about your main character! What does he or she struggle with? What is their fear, desire, and misbelief? Can you feel your character deep inside you?
4 thoughts on “Characters: the Heart of Every Story”
Yes! Character conversations are so helpful to me! 💙
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And they’re so fun!! 😂
YES YES YES!!!! I love all your tips, and completely agree, it’s the most important part of story-writing – I think strongly developed characters can make a cheesy and lame plot forgivable. XD (Though of course, if you really do have good characters, then they’d be driving the plot, so that it technically couldn’t be THAT bad… y’know what, never mind. Lol.)
Thank you for sharing!!
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Agreed!! I can forgive almost anything in a story if the characters are well developed! Because if they’re well developed, then chances are I’m going to fall madly in love with them and then there’s no return. 😂 (Haha! Very true! The point being: have well developed characters!! 🤣)
You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it!!
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