Friday, September 19, 2008

Characters that Inspire

The most important job a fiction writer has is to create characters that are real.

Plot is worthless if the characters are not people we can believe in, care about, root for, hate, be provoked by or otherwise moved by on an emotional level.

When my first book MONTANA MATCH was published people commented about my characters, "I feel like I know them personally." "They seem like friends of mine."

My heroine in EVER SO HUMBLE irked a lot of readers. "I just wanted to take Marisa and shake her," one reader told me.

I wanted to shake her myself. She has an attitude, and sometimes could use a little something to make her see things more clearly. Yet, in the end, Marisa and many of the supporting characters impressed readers and inspired them.

A PARTNER'S PROMISE's protagonist, an eleven-year-old orphan boy, is truly courageous and heroic, but he is every bit a little boy. Readers often comment how inspired they were by this young hero.

The comments I hear most often about my characters is that they are inspiring. I, like most writers, truly enjoy hearing this remark.

So how does a writer create characters that inspire?

The short answer--write from the heart.

The longer answer--consider these three suggestions

1. Choose a character who, at the core of his being, has goodness in his or her heart. Even a character who has done evil or unkind things, has been lazy or has other negative traits, can have true goodness in his or her heart.

2. Allow the goodness within the character to surface when the individual is challenged by the circumstances of his life. Let him choose the high road, no matter what it will cost him.

3. Even if the evil he must overcome during his struggle is something he created himself, even if he faces death by doing the right thing, the character willingly makes his sacrifice for the common good or for the good of another.

In the movie "The Abyss" the female lead is a truly bitchy, arrogant character. No one can stand her. She's mean to her ex-husband, yet, as much as he wants to hate her, he hasn't stopped loving her. At one point in the movie, the hero and heroine are in mortal danger. One of them would be able to survive, but not both of them. Even though the hero insists he be the one to give his life to save his ex-wife's life because he still cares for her, the heroine sacrifices herself in order to save her former husband's life.

You can't hate a woman like that anymore. No matter how bitchy, mean and arrogant this character is, she has now become inspiring because, at the very core of her being, she hid a grain of goodness in her heart and that bit of goodness allowed her to do something great.

There is nothing easy about creating characters that inspire, but succeeding in that realm is worth every gram of effort a writer makes toward that goal.

No one ever said writing is easy. Or, if they did, they probably weren't a writer.

Have a great week!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

1 comment:

Heidi said...

The Abyss is my favorite Cameron movie--yes, I like it better than Titanic.