When I signed up for the great blogging experiment about writing compelling characters, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be. For two weeks, I’ve been thinking about what to say and haven’t come up with anything besides the basic idea that readers need to care about the character. For me, this can include:
1. experiencing an emotional reaction related to the character
2. making a connection with the character based on a mutual interest or trait
3. wanting to know something about the character, like whether they’ll reach their goal or how they’ll get out of the terrible mess they’re in
Sometimes, I don’t even particularly like the main character in a novel, but if I’m intrigued about how they’ll solve a problem [i.e. I care what happens to them] I’ll stick with the story.
When I’m writing my own stories, character personalities emerge as I write my first draft. I rarely sit down and create long character descriptions or backstory. I know a few things about them. I add a slightly unusual hobby or trait. And I know what they want. After that, developing my character is a process of discovery.
I like to find out about my character through what they do and how they react to situations. Later, during revisions, I add to what I know about them to create deeper layers, or to bring out an interesting side to their personality. Are they compelling? I'm not sure. But I do know that they evoke emotional reactions from the few people that have read my stories.