I’ve just listened to a Stephen King interview on The Today Programme (BBC Radio 4) and he said something that really resonated with me.
“What I want the audience to do is to fall in love with these people, and really to care about them and that creates the suspense that you need. Love creates horror.” (Source: bbc.co.uk)
A writer needs to create characters that the reader can empathise with – whether protagonist or antagonist. This is one of the strong points of The Newsflesh Trilogy, which I’ve just finished reading.
Yes, I’ve just been through the most nerve shredding experience I’ve had in a while, but I’ve realised that the tension in the story was so high because I cared about the characters.
The author did a great job of creating flawed characters. Characters that demonstrated that people aren’t inherently good or bad. That it’s the choices that they make which helps shape the person they become (hang on a second…that sounds familiar…)
Give me a great set of characters and an interesting plot, and I’ll be forced to keep reading to the end.
How do you create a lovable character?
You need to create three-dimensional characters. 3D characters are more than what they appear to be on the surface. They:
- Act and react based on experiences, acquired skills and temperament.
- Have biases based on things that have happened in their past.
- Are flawed.
- Have ambitions, goals and dreams.
In short, they have pasts and imaginations. These are characters that readers think still exist when the story is over. They want to know what happened to them after “and they lived happily ever after”.
Two-dimensional characters are like cardboard cut-outs. They act the way they do simply because it’s convenient for the plot. They may even act in opposition to their own backstory, with no motivation behind their change.
You don’t get any insight into the inner workings of the character’s mind, because the author either hasn’t created those elements, or because they’ve forgotten to show these inner workings in the writing. In effect, what you get is an empty shell of a character. There’s nothing to grow attached to, and so the reader doesn’t care what happens to the character.
There can be no fear, no tension, no mystery and no love without giving the reader a reason to want the character to win.