Your characters, your “stars,” are the single most important part of your story. Sure, the plot and settings are important, too, but without a good character even the most amazing plot line and immersive world will be a dud. You need to make sure your character speaks to the reader, that they stand out and make you go “yeah, that’s someone I want to read about.” How do you do that, you ask? Well, buckle up, we’re gonna go for a ride down ranting lane.
Give Your Hero a Specific Goal
This is an idea that many authors, at least with modern media, might dispute. The idea that a character has to have a specific goal or dream isn’t too common these days – most of the time their goals change as the plot does. That’s fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that a character without something they want is a passive character, and no one wants to read about someone that just has shit happen too them. These goals don’t have to be earth-shaking and world-changing, just something they want desperately.
Examples of some goals can include:
- Resolving a conflict of relations. This can be between a person, a community, a country, etc.
- Gaining a prize. Winning the girl, money, a war or contest, etc.
- Solving the mystery or proving themselves correct.
- Meeting a challenge. This can be just about anything from arresting the purse snatcher to saving the world.
- And others.
The important thing is that this goal has to mean something to the hero. If its just some random goal they picked up from those around them by happenstance, then it is not a worthy goal. It has to be personal.
Make Your Hero One that Acts, Not Reacts
As mentioned above, don’t let your hero be someone that just has shit happen to them. No one likes a wet-noodle of a star, no matter the medium. If they just sit around and wait for the things to happen, being a whiny character that never does anything but complain about the world, readers will be turned off. Even weak, shy, quiet, or pathetic characters must actively try to get out of whatever situation they’re in to get what they want.
This means a character must take direct action. They have to move to defeat the opposition, whatever it is, or act to reach their goals. They can’t wait – they’re the hero, not a background character. The story is about them and their journey.
Keep Those Stakes High
This is a place that many modern tales sort of flounder in. Yes, we know the hero will win, they will save the day and beat the bad guy, get the girl, get the prize money. We know that. However, you shouldn’t just give us that outcome. We shouldn’t feel like the big fight, the epic battle between armies, the ultimate showdown in the ring or final sequence that exposes the mystery is just a piece of filler content. You need motivation for your hero and their story. They need to feel like they’re giving everything to achieve the goal they have.
These motivations have to be primal, vital even. Protection of loved ones, a fear of death, a fear of loss or rejection, of never being able to get back up if they go down in the 7th round, etc. Things that make your hero get the hell up and keep going because failure just isn’t an option, no matter what. Show us, early on, what will be lost if the hero doesn’t meet their goal, what will be obtained if they do. Make sure we know what this means to them and their development as a character and a person.
Read More: 3 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills
These are three fundamental things you should keep in mind when crafting a character for any medium, be it writing or film. You need to make sure your character is one that lives and breathes, that they are as close to a living, breathing, being as you and me. I hope you took something important out of this post today, and I hope you’ll check out some other posts on my blog too! Leave a like if you enjoyed, and comment what you think!