Great! You have decided to get off the fence and start your book. You have a pretty good idea of the story line, and you know what you want the story to tell people. Now you need to create that main character… the star of the book. Well, you might be surprised at how difficult that can be!
Stay inside the black box.
There are several problems that new writers come across. They might find that their character is bombastic… He or she looks good on paper, but once you get to know then, they are over inflated, without much substance. Another problem is that the character is uninteresting, and readers simply get bored. Sometimes the character is so complex, it makes the reader feel like they are not smart enough to read the book. It’s great if you want to show everyone how smart you are, but when you only sell five copies, would it have been it worth it?
Stay inside the black box. That’s the place where you feel most comfortable, and you know that your character is real. Give your character traits that most people can relate with. How many times have you listened to a conversation that was over your head? If you keep your main character grounded, you will find your audience can relate to him or her much better. Remember, you can always make secondary characters bigger than life, as long as you keep the main character real.
The world in your hands…
Now that you have a handle on your main character, you can focus on the world around him. This is where you can let your imagination fly. Your character can be grounded and still have a very colorful life. Maybe she is a world renown scientist finding a cure for cancer, or perhaps he is a master criminal closing in on the Hope Diamond. No doubt you have several ideas for you character by now. So, let your creative juices flow, and enjoy yourself.
Don’t be afraid to venture in areas you are unfamiliar with. If you want your character to be a military person, then take some time to learn about how a proper military person would act. Nothing turns me off faster that reading a book that has inaccurate information. It shows that the author didn’t care enough about the book they were writing to do any research. Don’t insult your readers… know your facts!
Amazing facts – not so amazing facts.
In order to make your character more realistic, I suggest you give him or her some flaws. Think about your favorite character when you were growing up. Were they perfect? Most likely not. Even Superman had his Kryptonite. Let me demonstrate…
Amazing facts: “Magnus was a strong man; he was very rich and the women loved him. His knowledge of the world was second to none, and his golden hair made the damsels blush…” See? The perfect man. Now, lets bring him down to earth.
Not so amazing facts: “Magnus was not the strongest of men, but he was brave. His fiancee dumped him last week, so he was not in the best of moods. As he looked at the growing pile of bills he growled and said ‘I’m gonna join the Navy!'”
Now, I know the two story lines were silly, but think about how the stories might play out. The first one can only go uphill, since there is not much room for failure. The second one has so many places to go, the sky is really the limit! So, don’t write yourself into a corner… let your character live!
So, am I that easy to forget?
Now that your hero is running through the pages of your novel, what can you do to give him or her a long life? There are so many writers who make the mistake of making their characters forgettable. The secret here is to give your character heart. With just a bit of personality and the right amount of substance, your character can live forever. Look at some more memorable characters that we see in books today. The “Harry Potter” series ha s been selling millions and millions of copies, and all the characters are immortal. No matter how many books is written, they will still sell millions and millions of copies. I do realize, of course, that the story line has a lot to do with it, but without the characters, the story would just kind of flop.
The best way to make your character memorable is to give him or her a past and a purpose. By giving details from the past, you give substance and meaning to your character. It’s much easier to relate to someone who has been there, and done that. So, remember when you are putting the finishing touches on your characters, your fans won’t always want Prince Charming… sometimes they just want Elmer Fudd.
What does this mean exactly?
Enjoy yourself. Let your hair down, and have some fun with your character. I think that if you take a couple tips from this article and just have fun with your character, you will be just fine. Most of my characters turn out to be middle age, single men who are usually widowers or loners. So, pull out the writing pad and come up with that perfect character… but don’t forget the Kryptonite!