Compelling Characters

So I had a 10 post series planned out for this great blogging experiment on characters, inspired by Elana Johnson. I spent hours revising them and choosing each and every precious word. I slaved. My eyes bled ink.

And then I saw over 100 people had signed up and will be posting about characters. That’s a lot of posts. So I decided to sum up the series and make this short.

To be compelling, a character needs to be flawed and proactive. His or her flaw should be behind the decision-making and thus drive the plot. We don’t want the characters passive and just reacting to the events happening around him/her (no matter how exciting the events are).

Okay, so I had two (flawed and proactive). Now check out the other posts and learn how to create rockin’ characters.

74 Responses to Compelling Characters

  1. Jennifer Hoffine September 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    Great condensing!

    I had issues with the proactive thing when I first started writing. You might be able to ignore that “rule” some in literary fiction, but in genre stuff you’re right, proactive is a must.

  2. Liza September 24, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    Flawed seems to be a consistent theme, but your proactive brings up a terrific point too.

  3. RaShelle September 24, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Flaws and they need to interact with their world. Got it. Thanks. =D

  4. Debbie Curran September 24, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Spot-on advice… this is the third or fourth blog so far I’ve gotten to read and the advice has all been great reminders. I’m breakin’ out the notebook!
    By the way… nice to meet you!

  5. Kelly Polark September 24, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    Very good advice, Laura. Perfect is boring! Plus people waiting for others to help them is boring too!

  6. Lynda Young September 24, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    yes, proactive. IThat’s a great point. We want our characters to have drive.

  7. Melissa Wideen September 25, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    Succinct, to the point and great advice. Good job. Being proactive is SUCH a big key.

  8. Karen Lange September 25, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    Yes, I agree! Real but not perfect, with a good range of characteristics for memorable and effective characters.

  9. Laura Diamond September 25, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    Short and sweet and incredibly poignant. Great post! I love the idea of a character’s flaw driving the plot. Oh, yeah, that’s good stuff right there.

  10. Jemi Fraser September 25, 2010 at 1:20 am #

    Perfect! Proactive is so important. Nothing worse than reacting all the time. And perfect is boring!

  11. Dawn Simon September 25, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    Yes, being flawed and proactive are both important. Proactive is an interesting point because we can’t just write about characters who have stuff happen to them; they have to make decisions and do things.

  12. Elizabeth Mueller September 25, 2010 at 4:02 am #

    Great post! 🙂 I feel that characters are the stuff every day people hide. We want to relate to them and know that they are just like us. Flawed. Thank you for participating!

    Come and visit me!

  13. Len September 25, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Hi Laura! You raised a very good point, something I never thought of when I wrote my post on this one – being proactive!

    I love your profile pic and description, too! It made me smile! 🙂 I’m now following you! 🙂

  14. Anna September 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Short and sweet and so true! I don’t mind if a character is passive at first, but if all s/he does is react, it doesn’t make for much of a story.

  15. Faith September 25, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    No passive characters! Great point. I hate it when a character is just a leaf in the wind, blown about by events. He or she needs to turn around and push back against that wind and take active steps throughout the plot.

  16. Tyrean September 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    Short and perfect advice! I agree with Anna, in that I don’t mind if the hero/heroine is reluctant at first, but they have to jump in quickly. The idea that their flaw is what drives them forward is wonderful and intriguing. I’m not sure if I do that with my characters, and I think I need to work on that.

  17. Cinette September 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    Bravo! When I wrote in my younger days, my characters were not proactive. My stories sucked and I didn’t know why. So instead of writing about people like me, I now write about kicka** protags. Important points to remember!

  18. Eleven Eleven September 25, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    Powerful and short. I love this simplicity of proactive and flawed. It gets straight to the heart of what counts.

  19. Julie Musil September 25, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    Short and to the point…I love it! Thanks, Laura.

  20. Cindy September 25, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    Yay! Build proactive characters is a great point that I often overlook. Thanks for giving me something to keep in my toolbox. 🙂


  21. Jules September 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    You are so right! I read a book recently in which the main character never made a decision and was just carried along by an exciting plot. It drove me nuts!!!

    Great post!

  22. allison September 25, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    Great, short advice – something I *know*, but sometimes forget to employ. I definitely have scenes where my character passively “experiences” something that could/should be a major issue!

  23. Deni Krueger September 27, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    Short, sweet, and absolutely true.

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