The minute your reader opens the pages of your book, your characters need to be ready to jump out and meet them. They will become the reason your reader keeps hurtling through the chapters, and they’re probably the reason you want to write your book, even if you haven’t met them yet.
Humans are social creatures. We make sense of our world through stories, and we’re fascinated by the experiences of other people. We want to see the challenges they go through, and still come out the other side. We want to see how they cope, how they change and what they learn in the process. Because we pick up a book for the characters, they need to be people we want to know more about. We need to care about what happens to them, and to do this, we need to be able to relate to them on some level. This doesn’t mean they need to be exactly like us, or that they need to be shiny, perfect examples of humanity (in fact, their flaws are usually what make them interesting.)
It does mean that we need to get to know them as well as possible before we introduce them to our readers. All writers have different ways of going about this; some people do lots of character planning before they write a word of their novel, and some get to know more about their characters as they write. When I’ve written stories in the past, I’ve had to go right back to the beginning and flesh my characters out as I edit. Sometimes, some of my characters weren’t distinct enough from each other and didn’t stand out on the page.
Most authors have to edit and revamp their characters a little during drafts. Who a character 'is' will affect what they 'do'. If you go back and change a character too much from your original draft, you may find their actions (and therefore your plot) will have to change too, which will tie you up in knots and add months of extra work. I’m going to save you some time! Putting a few minutes work in today to interview your characters will save you heaps of stress, time and work further down the line. Jot down the questions below in a notebook and have a go at interviewing your characters.
1) What is your character’s biggest fear?
2) Name one secret about your character that they’ve never told anyone else
3) Name one secret they’ve kept for someone else
4) What is your character’s biggest dream?
5) Their biggest regret?
6) Who do they love the most?
7) Who would they least like to run into in the supermarket?
If you would like further support with the characterisation in your novel, do check out my affordable editing services here.
Enjoy, and happy writing!