A Blog of Writing Tips, Interviews, Thoughts on the Writing Process, Book Reviews, Blog Hops, and Things NESCBWI Conference Related.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Importance of Crafting Compelling Characters

You know Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter, and Bella Swan - these aren’t just names, they’re characters whose secrets you know, desires you understand, and whose fears you wish you could quell. Characters so alive, you’ve fallen in love with them.

Why does this happen?

Not by accident.

These characters are carefully crafted so their actions, dialogue and choices show (yes, show) how they think and what they believe. Crafted to make their flaws stand out, their secrets weigh heavy, to allow their fears to be exploited.

As my character’s life unfolds, my goal is to make it easy for the reader to get caught up in the character’s actions and words.  If I do it right, I can facilitate an internal dialogue where the reader reacts emotionally and wants to tell my character not to make that choice or say those words. Where the readers wants to send warnings, because they care about what is happening the character.

Of course my character will make the wrong choice or say the wrong thing, they have to. The reader can’t change what will happen, but they will love my character more for making mistakes, for being human.

Ultimately, I want my reader to cry when my character pays the price for their mistakes, and laugh and cheer them on when they grow and change. Most of all, I want to make reader believe in my character. 

Once a reader believes a character can save the world, fight evil wizards, or love a vampire, you've succeeded in creating a compelling character.


  1. ...and so much easier said than done!!!!

  2. I get stuck with how much detail to put down about these compelling characters and where to put it. huh! Hi - great post - here from the A2Z Challenge stopping by and I think I'm gonna follow!. http://wordsinsync.blogspot.com/2011/04/z-blogging-challenge-april-2011-c.html Shah. X

  3. oh, the challenge to craft characters! This is something that I can totally recognize when I see it, but am not sure I have achieved it just yet.

    Great topic! Found you thru the A-Z Challenge. :)

  4. Great post, I like how well you explained creating compelling characters. It is important to have that connection between the reader and the characters.

    And I like your flower pictures in your previous post. I can't wait for the tulips in my garden to start blooming. Though the deer eat them until the hyacinths bloom.

    I'm here from the a to z challenge - cgoverts.blogspot.com

  5. Shah, Corinne, and Claire - Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I look forward to getting over all of yours later this evening.

    I always here about character driven books. I think this is why they are so loved.

  6. For me, character-driven books are the most compelling, so I truly appreciate your post. And I totally agree--characters work best when we are show their emotions and what they are grappling with rather than being told.
    Nice post!

  7. Tricky business indeed! But only compelling characters can drive a worthwhile plot. Nice post!

  8. Creating a life-like character is a challenge...but I agree with this post, writers need to create such characters for their stories to succeed.

    All the best with A-Z,

  9. Wonderful - I've been finding a treasure chest full of articles I feel really do help me learn more about my craft. Characters are so important - I'll never turn down a good posting on character building, because there are just so many nuances to this! Thanks for the great post! Lizzy Ford

  10. Excellent post. Katniss is a good example of a tough character who can also be vulnerable at times.

  11. found you today.. with the surprise button on arlee's blog... FUN... I feel like I am taking a college course on writing.. being among all you fine writers.. I feel dumb asking who Katniss Everdeen is?? I know Bella and the other LOL
    I am so glad I found you in the a-z challenge.. I will have to add you to my favorites.
    1 Wasabi mommy

  12. Hi 1 Wasabi mommy - Katniss Everdeen is the protagonist in the Hunger Games Trilogy. Great read! :)

  13. I'm also trying to improve my characterization thanks for sharing.