Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Creating Interesting Characters

I’m in the beginning stages of the next book in the Aurora Anderson mystery series so I’ve been thinking a lot lately about creating characters. As a writer, I want to create characters that are memorable enough that readers will keep coming back to my books. But what makes a character interesting or memorable?

I’ve read a lot of writing books that talk about creating well-rounded and interesting characters. In one of them (don’t ask me which one, I’ve read a bazillion of them), the author talked about giving a character an “obsession” like loving chocolate ice cream. They also noted that whatever interest you give them, it should be there for some reason. e.g. she loves ice cream because she has fond memories of eating it with her mother when she was growing up.

The shredder
Most people have some sort of obsession. It might be as small as loving ice cream or it might creep into the realm of stalkerville. I’ve talked before on Type M about my love for the Great British Bake Off and may also have alluded to a slight obsession with Celtic Thunder. Even our cats had their own little quirks. The oldest loved shredding paper with her claws. Any piece of paper that landed on the floor was fair game. Leave paper too long and she’d methodically rip it to shreds. The other cat loved tearing down towels from the bathroom towel racks. He would systematically move around the house, from bathroom to bathroom, reach up and bring down every single towel with his claws. He wasn’t satisfied until they were all on the floor. Then he’d just walk away. He didn’t do anything with them. For some reason, he wanted them all on the floor. After awhile, I just left them there and he eventually grew out of that obsession. I adored my cats. Their quirks made them more interesting to me.

The towel puller
The same goes with characters in stories, I think. As an added bonus, you can use those obsessions for and against them. In an episode of the TV show “Rosewood”, the detective knew someone was lying because of her love of a particular brand of pretzel. Because of it, she knew exactly where in the local mall the store was located, which told her the person she was talking to was lying. On the “Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon loves trains. Besides showing a different side of him, it’s also been fun for the writers to work with. I can also see a character using another character’s obsession against them, perhaps to lure them into a trap.

So, Type M readers, what makes a character stand out to you? Do you find it interesting when a writer gives them an obsession?


Charlotte Hinger said...

Hi Sybil--I like characters who have strong motivation that puts them in conflict with events or other people. Right now, I'm listening to the Count of Monte Cristo. Talk about a strong revenge motive.

Sybil Johnson said...

I loved the Count of Monte Cristo. I remember reading the book in high school. Such a great story and a great character.

Donna S said...

After reading your post, I tried to think why and what I like about the characters in my favourite author's books. I think it is that the women are strong and self motivated and also intelligent and that the other characters in the books like them as well. They all mostly like children, animals and the elderly too.