Getting to Know Characters Through Their Inner Beings
This week I am excited to host author Susan Page Davis as she talks to us about our characters.
We’ve discussed developing fictional characters through their appearance, speech, background, and behavior. Today let’s talk about the characters’ inner beings—their temperament, emotion, will, attitude, and character traits.
Paramount in fiction is causing your reader to like the main character. No one enjoys reading books about characters they dislike. So make the reader care what happens to this person.
What can make your character likeable? For starters, weaknesses, flaws, and fears, if not extreme, can help the reader like the character. However, a very pronounced flaw, fear, or perceived weakness can have the opposite effect. If the heroine has a weakness for cute kittens, a lot of people will identify with that. However, if she has thirty cats in her apartment, they won’t.
Readers like to know that the main character is not perfect. A character who is “too good” is boring. Readers want to identify with the character, to think, “this person is a lot like me.” And they know that they themselves are not perfect. So do give the hero or heroine some flaws, but not too many and not too pronounced. Your readers will identify better with a hero who struggles inwardly as well as outwardly.
Another way to influence your reader’s view about the character is showing how other people perceive her. If some other characters dislike the heroine, that’s okay, so long as the reader cares about her. If you show some other characters respecting the heroine, that will make a difference in how the reader sees her, too.
Is the character moody? A hard worker? Irresponsible? A good listener? A loyal friend? All of these traits and more, good or bad, can be shown through what others say about her and through the way other characters react to her.
If she has a flaw or a fear, make sure she has a reason for being that way. Give her a past that gives insight into her fears and weaknesses.
Personality traits can go a long way toward defining your character. Is he an introvert or an extrovert? Upbeat most of the time, or gloomy? Artistic? Athletic? A leader or a follower? Figure out what your character is like inside, and then portray him consistently.
Consistency is important. It allows readers to guess how the character will act and react. But it will also make it clear when the person acts out of character, which can be an important point in your story. If a person who is a neatnik, for instance, and is always perfectly groomed, suddenly shows up with his hair disheveled and a shoe untied, you can bet something’s going on.
Finally, let the character grow. She won’t change her personality, but her goals and desires should change over the course of the story. You heroine should not be the same person at the end of the book as she was at the beginning. She may still bite her nails, but she’s found a way to conquer her fears (or at least deal with them) and make her flaws work for her.
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty Christian novels and novellas. Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest. You can sign up for her newsletter at https://madmimi.com/signups/118177/join
Find Susan at:
Susan blog on the 23rd of each month at: www.hhhistory.com