The writer's empathy for his character will ensure readers' attention.
| Writers are advised to create characters readers care about. Then, they are given worksheets to fill in as to the specifics of the character they are creating, and the result may still lead to cardboard characters.
If a writer doesn’t have a character at hand, how does he create a character that the readers will care about? The answer could be the writer, inside himself, will need to feel for the character, so he can show that to the readers.
In other words, the writer himself will need to connect with the character emotionally before he starts filling that character sheet and making the character’s eyes blue. To do that, he has to establish the character’s general outlook.
The question to ask, at this point, is: What kind of a character will demonstrate the story idea best? Even if the author wants to start without a story idea but with solely a character, he still has to decide the kind of a character he will feel emotional about. Will the character be a hero producing admiration, an underdog with everything against him, an average person that most readers will identify with, or an anti-hero who does everything wrong and is morally defective?
Once the general type is decided, the traits of the character become the next concern. Traits can be divided into three tiers: psychological, emotional, and intellectual. After filling in the traits of each tier, the values, beliefs or attitudes of the character can be established. Then will come the flaws.
Next major step and the most significant one is determining what the character wants most and why he wants it. This step is the most important one. The success of any story lies in it, because what the character wants badly will create the conflict of the story.
A main character needs to be active. If he is a passive person, the story will lose from its energy. In the hands of an experienced writer, however, a passive character can be made active as the story progresses, especially if he overcomes a flaw that has been defeating him in the past.
Since change is interesting, during the course of the story, any character who changes in some way--especially with his emotions and thinking--will lure the reader’s attention. This change in the character, if fortified with struggles toward what he badly wants, will provide the story with more power and meaning. The trick here is to make the change believable.
Characters are better shown than told. Instead of relying on exposition, a writer can show--in small scenes, flashbacks, and other tools of fiction--the character’s actions, reactions, decisions, the conflicts inside him, and can contrast the character with other characters or with the environment.
Connection between a writer and his character takes place when the writer recognizes his character’s emotions. Empathy is the key here. Whether a writer thinks the character is unique, fascinating, flawed, moral, immoral, mysterious, or conflicted, if he connects with his character, he’ll give him appealing human qualities to create complexity, as in the characterizations of Bonnie and Clyde, so the readers can travel along with the character throughout the story’s flow.
In short, if an author feels for his character, the reader will also. After creating the main character, the writer will still need to add his magic with his pen, but now, he has a well-developed character he cares about, working toward a compelling story.