Lots of discussion on social media about the importance of plot and character, and debate over which is more important. Personally, I believe they both have equal weight in a storyline. You can have the best plot in the world but if the characters are not engaging with the reader, what’s the point? Similarly, you can have fascinating characters, but if they’re featured in a meh plot, their talents are somewhat wasted, don’t you think? Today’s post is focused on the characters in a storyline—what makes a reader bond to a character? Here are my 5 picks and why…
- Background: I know from personal experience that I’m drawn to people with similar backgrounds. This could be people who went to my high school or university (same major, alumni, sorority/fraternity); from my hometown, state, neighborhood; family members (cousins, aunts/uncles, friends of family or friends of friends), and people who have worked at the same companies that I have. Now granted, unless you’re reading a biographical book of some sort or a non-fiction dossier, you probably won’t find any of these specific people in your stories. What I do find when I start to empathize with a character, are those that have similar settings, lifestyle, fashion choices, food preferences…there’s always something that reminds me of someone I know or somewhere I’ve been. It’s those characters I can easily bond with because they’re familiar to me, easier to know.
- Emotions: This link has lots of different paths of attraction, I’ll cover personality types later on in the role discussion. When I think of an emotional bond, I tend to think of character’s who have experienced the joys, pains, anger, love, hate, and distresses that I have experienced. I know the heartbreak a character feels when being dumped by a boyfriend. I know the joy a character feels when he or she obtains their dream job. I feel the pain of a character when a loved one dies. I know the anger of a character when he or she is snubbed or bullied. I can relate to characters exhibit similar feelings that I’ve had, you feel for them because you’ve been there yourself.
- Careers: For me this is a big one (and I totally recognize and accept it may not be that big to you 🙂 ). I went from wanting to be a doctor, to getting engineering degrees and working for the USAF, to getting business degrees and working in sales, to now being a cozy mystery writer. I’m drawn to characters who have similar professional interests as I’ve had. I love it when they take their career on a whole different or unexpected path. I enjoy learning how characters use their professional expertise to deal with the challenges, mysteries, or love interests presented in a storyline. I love learning about new careers/abilities that I didn’t even know existed (ie Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon, religious iconology/symbology with eidetic memory is a favorite of mine, who knew?).
- Role: What characters do you like? The leader? The risk taker? The hero/heroine/savior? The analytical mind? There are personality types that support any of these roles: ISTJ, the duty fulfiller; ISTP, the mechanic; INFJ, the protector. There are 16 personality types that we can map to, and we are likely drawn to characters that exhibit similar personality traits and roles that we identify with ourselves, or perhaps traits that we wish we could have. The character that interests me the most is one that on the surface seems good and nurturing, but ends up being the one who does evil and destructive acts. I’m always intrigued by this question: what would cause a person of one type to do something totally unexpected? That’s a good mystery I love.
- Aspirations: I have a bucket list of things I aspire to do now that I have the freedom to do so. Some are one time events, and others are events and rituals I’d like to incorporate into my everyday practices. Travel is a big aspiration of mine—I love going to the UK, Europe, and visiting states and cities in the US. I love visiting castles, having afternoon teas, going to hot air balloon launches, watching equestrian events. I also aspire to be a better writer, taking courses, joining organizations that encourage and support writers. I love characters who follow their dreams, learn new things, eats new foods, or travels the world. Their aspirations lead them into new journeys—some filled with happiness, and some leading to tragedy. I know the risks, but I root for their success. their dream becomes mine.
I hope today’ post has given you a tons of questions to ask yourself, or explore in a writer’s discussion, or banter in a book club. The bonding of a reader to a character is a fun topic to explore—what makes you like or dislike a character? Dying to know 🙂
Crowns and Kisses,
P.S. My featured picture of the day was taken in my cozy writing room, filled with lights, crowns, books, and my favorite little piggies. I don’t know what it is about piggies, but I do love them—I have a definite bond 🙂 Gemma would approve.