Compelling means to evoke interest, attention or admiration and that’s exactly what you want your characters to do when writing a story, whether it be a novel or a picture book. You want your character to be interesting to the reader, no one wants to read about a boring character. You want your character to grab the reader’s attention, you don’t want your reader’s attention to wander to what they are going to be cooking for dinner tomorrow night because your character has failed to grab their attention. So how can you write a compelling character?
Bring Your Character to Life
Your characters should come across as real people, fully developed with hopes, desires and flaws. A flat 2D character is not going to keep your readers glued to the page and they certainly won’t care what is going to happen to that cardboard cutout character. Some ways you can create a more realistic character:
1. Write up a character bio, including their flaws and strengths.
2. Do character interviews, ask in-depth questions that will show personality.
3. Do a character collage, cut out pictures from magazines that represent your character.
You can do all this before you start writing to have a good picture of your character in your head before you start, or do it before editing if you prefer. You don’t have to include every detail from your character bio in your story, but having it there will help form the character in your mind.
Get Inside Your Character’s Head
This applies even if you’re writing in third person. As you write, imagine yourself in your character’s position.
What would you do if you were your character?
How would your character react to certain situations?
How does your character experience the world around him/her?
This is connected to making your character realistic, but it involves delving even deeper into your character’s psyche. You want your reader to not only see your character as a real person, but to be able to connect with your character on a personal level. You want your reader to experience the same emotions as your character. By stepping into your character’s shoes as you write, the character comes across as more personal and there is a better chance your reader will find themselves inside your character’s head too.
Give Your Character a Goal
Give your character something they want to achieve and show why they want it so badly. Give them obstacles along the way to achieving the goal, make it hard for them and allow them to fail at first (there’s nothing less compelling than a character who achieves things too easily or without consequence). Your character’s goal may change along the way, and that’s OK as long as it makes sense.
For more ideas on how to write a compelling character check out Elana Johnson’s post ‘How to Write Compelling Characters‘ where you can find links to a variety of blogs blogging on this topic.