What Makes A Character Great?

A young, hip student asked if a character chart was something like a MySpace profile. Yes! While it will be interesting to see how writers in my class envision their characters, let’s examine what qualities memorable characters possess.
Writing Tip for Today: The writing adage goes, “Character is Story.” The more deeply and completely a writer knows a character, the better story the writer will produce. It’s not so much about knowing the color of the character’s eyes, although it’s good to have an idea about what your character looks like. Start with the easy stuff, but then delve into what makes your character tick. If the reader understands the character’s motivation, the reader is more likely to invest in the character. However, if the character’s main qualities are apathy, seeking revenge or a form of sociopath (I’ve had several novelists-in-training with these types of protags), you can’t blame the average reader for saying, “No thanks.” You’ve no doubt heard that your protagonist must be likable, sympathetic, able to make the reader care. While not all main characters are exactly “likable,” most possess qualities to help them stand out and at least be memorable. Here’s a short list of qualities you might consider for your own character:
Cares deeply about things
Isn’t afraid to act

This isn’t to say you don’t give your character flaws. In some ways, vulnerability helps readers relate to the story. But the best characters are often larger-than-life. They do what we wish we could do, they strive to make a better world, they don’t only survive, but endure.

Try This! What are your character’s main qualities? In what ways could you imbue that person with larger-than-life qualities?

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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