The makings of great character

I’m editing a new novel (my thirteenth! woohoo!) and realizing something I’ve always known intuitively, but until now haven’t openly articulated.

I love characters.

I love everything about building a history, a past, a fleshed-out and complete life for these fictional people I’ll live with and be frustrated by for months, and sometimes years. I suppose this all stems from my enjoyment of interpersonal relationships. People fascinate me.

I knew it when I waitressed in high school and college, and most certainly, as a novelist, writing teacher, and generally observant human, I am aware of it now.

So, what makes people tick? We’re all at once predictable and shocking– and no one can stop us from being so. Even someone you’ve known your entire life will come at you with an insight, comment, or action that sends you reeling.

Why shouldn’t characters be the same?

So, after the first solid draft is done, I am doing what I love most. Editing. (Yes, some writers would say I’m really weird for this one)

Editing allows me to dig deep into the characters to make sure they are consistent and unpredictable at the same time. Just like real people. This, for me, is where the magic happens. In real life people say one thing and do another- either out of fear, a lack of self-awareness, or who knows what else. But it’s fun to figure it out.

Currently my characters are a second-chance-romance story who are fun because they’re both strong and sassy. But, as with any strong and sassy character, they also lack confidence in some ways too– and this will be the catalyst for the problems they face.

Because characters are usually (maybe even always) the cause of their own problems. And in order to make big problems that seem insurmountable, which keeps the reader reading, the characters and their motivations (and reasons for not having what they want already) must be known. Who, but the author, can have this information?

Such a list of fun things to keep in mind as I edit this thirteenth novel today! Characters, motivation, backstory, familiarity, predictability, and surprise all at once. It’s a lot for an author to manage, but I love it all!

Happy reading, friends!

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