Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Compelling Characters.

Today is the day of the Great Blogging Experiment--a brainstorm by those friendly/awesome bloggers Elana, Jen and Alex.

The Topic: Writing Compelling Characters.

Let's break it down. Shall we...

Writing--I think we all know what this is because we are doing it.

Compelling [kəmˈpɛlɪŋ] adj.
1. arousing or denoting strong interest, esp admiring interest
2. (of an argument, evidence, etc.) convincing

Characters-char·ac·ter (krk-tr) n.
1. The combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another. See Synonyms at disposition.
2. A distinguishing feature or attribute, as of an individual, group, or category. See Synonyms at quality.
3. Genetics A structure, function, or attribute determined by a gene or group of genes.
4. Moral or ethical strength.
5. A description of a person's attributes, traits, or abilities.
6. A formal written statement as to competency and dependability, given by an employer to a former employee; a recommendation.
7. Public estimation of someone; reputation: personal attacks that damaged her character.
8. Status or role; capacity: in his character as the father.
a. A notable or well-known person; a personage.
b. A person, especially one who is peculiar or eccentric: a shady character; catcalls from some character in the back row
a. A person portrayed in an artistic piece, such as a drama or novel.
b. Characterization in fiction or drama: a script that is weak in plot but strong in character.

Yeah the character definition was a bit long so I cut it. I think you get the idea.

What is the main reason why you should have a compelling character?
 Reader's interest. That's right-- a compelling character is what drives your story. No interesting characters, readers move on.
It can also help a weak story-you have a compelling character-- it will hold the readers attention. Making them overlook the weakness.

So then how do you write a compelling character? Good question.

First try and think of what characters are compelling. What characters made you want to read and read till you finish the book.

There are many trust me--I had a hard time picking one. The one that sticks out is Katniss from The Hunger Games. I had to know how and if this girl would survive. But why?

1. I felt for her. She struggled in her daily life but made the best of her situation. Her family wasn't picture perfect and she put herself in front of harms way so her sister didn't have to. Empathy. I felt it.

2. She had to overcome one problem after another along with the mother of all problems. Weird bugs, fire, mud, heat, dehydration, starvation, you name it, they threw it at her along with the whole possible love thing. I kept thinking what else could happen to her and how would she get through it.
The mother problem-to survive.

3. I'm sure Suzanne Collins drew some of these characteristics from life somewhere along the line. I don't know her personally but I know I draw from life (write what you know.) It helps make the character real so the reader can relate. Katniss had real life issues --Mother who wasn't always there, dad died, loved her little sis and was figuring out boys.

 **I tried to be a little vague on the details incase you didn't read the book and want to.

Any thoughts on writing a compelling character?

What characters are compelling to you?

So there you have it my take on Writing a Compelling Character. This was fun and I can't wait to check out the other participants.

Monday, I will update you on the conference I'm attending tomorrow. Have a great weekend!


  1. Catching the readers interest couldn't be more spot on! Knowing how to make your character relateable is key!

    BTW - I'm the one who didn't read the books so I appreciate the vagueness!

    Enjoy the conference!

  2. Something I've noticed about writing compelling characters is that they may take a few chapters to develop. Some of my characters seem flat when they first see the light of day, but develop depth as they live and grow on the page.

    That means, once I know the character really well, I have to go back and revise the opening chapters to match the rest of the book.

    I recently critiqued a ms for a friend, and I was really worried when I started it. The MC was lifeless and lacking in voice. However, by the end of the ms, he was fully developed and a delight to read. I advised my friend that he *desperately* needed to re-write the opening chapters in the same voice he used in the closing chapters.

  3. Great post Christine, well said!

    Have a great time at the conference.

  4. Using the definition is a great idea! And Pendergast from Lincoln & Child's books is a compelling character to me. He's a mess but he gets the job done!

  5. Wow, so many great posts on writing compelling characters. Everyone has such awesome points.

    Good luck with the crit, and enjoy the conference.

  6. Are you kidding? This post is brilliant!!!
    Have fun at the conference!

  7. I like how you analyze a book that worked well for you. That's a great exercize we all can try at home. Thanks!

  8. This post is indeed, brilliant! Well said Christine, Katniss is a girl we just can't help but care about. :)

    Have a great time at the conference, good luck!

  9. Hey, thanks for including the definitions! I was thinking I should've included them in mine---for compelling at least---and now I don't have to!

    Nice post & have fun at the conference

  10. I really think you need to have a little of yourself or a little of someone you know REALLY well in there. We all do it, we might as well embrace it.

  11. Thanks for sharing your take on this! Characters are definitely what catches the reader.

  12. What a brilliant, detailed post, Christine! I think we are the same in getting the reader's attention. As a reader, I look for that in characters in a book, it's got to make me stick to it and finish the book from beginning to end. Thanks for a wonderful post! :)

  13. So survival is what makes Kat compelling. I agree, I think it does. I'd like to think that most of us would fight to survive as well, which means we identify with Kat. So really, we have to identify what humans would do and then let our characters do those things.

  14. I totally agree that a strong character can bring a weak plot from the brink. Very astute observation Christine!

  15. I totally agree that Katniss is a compelling character, but I never thought about why. Such good advice!

  16. Definitely you want to capture your readers interest and keep it, long after they finish the book. I think creating empathy and some connection with your readers is key. I haven't read the Hunger Games yet but I will. ;)

  17. If we don't snag readers interest....our books won't go anywhere.

  18. Snagging the readers interest from the start is key to holding it throughout the book. Well said!

  19. I like how you broke all the words down with their definitions - it does tell a lot about writing a character when we know what makes a character. we were thinking alike. Katniss is such a memorable, awesome character. Hope you enjoy your conference today.

  20. Katniss is a great example of compelling character. Her grit is both her strength and weakness, propelling her story.

  21. Great post! Compelling characters make readers turn the page. :)

  22. For me, a compelling character is all about personality. If there character doesn't have a strong voice, I lose interest. That's why I liked Mockingjay less than The Hunger Games. She wasn't the same Katniss. And she regressed instead of grew. I liked Evie in Paranormalcy too.

  23. I keep seeing Katniss mentioned as an example of a compelling character, so if several people think she's compelling, she must be so indeed. Great post.