I recently finished teaching a "Man Talk" class where I helped students find ways to make their male characters more realistic. Plot and setting are important, but characters make a story. If I care about the people I'll forgive a few lapses in their surroundings. If I don't care, not even the most fast-paced plot stifles my yawns or stops me from tossing a book aside. Many readers are just as rude as I am; they have too many things pulling at their valuable time to waste it reading about people that aren't realistic.
A few of those pesky YA readers
Especially young adult readers. If I bore them with noble stereotypes I'll be dropped in a hot minute. I have to hook readers fast and keep re-hooking them as the story progresses. If not they're off to the next movie or video game or sporting event…they may even chose to do homework.
But when they find a character that really pulls them into a book, someone they can love, or love to hate, they may never let you, or the book, go.
Reality should bite
I'm not talking about werewolves, dragons or vampires. My tag line -- Real Boys Growing Into Real Men--should really mention Real People. My job as a writer is to dig deep and sculpt characters with real hopes and aspirations, fears and flaws. Then I arm them with real goals before sending them out to meet the challenges of their plot.
David Albacore, the protagonist of PULL, is a natural rescuer - a Warrior archetype. But he also has a temper. He loves his sisters, but darn they make him angry sometimes. That makes him human.
My characters are their own unique selves
David is not me. I went the other way around and worked to become him. I joked in another post that I take my characters shopping with me to get to know them better. The truth is I do a lot more. I believe in the adage, Write What You Know. Since I knew nothing about seventeen-year-old boys, I became an anthropologist so I could learn. Writing PULL meant waking up every day for months and reminding myself "You're a boy, think and act like one." I trained myself to look at the world through his eyes. Once that happened, the writing flowed.
I trained myself to think and feel like a teenaged prostitute to write my 2010 Golden Heart manuscript, DAMAGED GOODS, where my heroine's past catches up to her. Right now I'm struggling to become a teenaged alcoholic for PULL's sequel. Once I know him well enough I'll put him on a path of discovery that will lead him to the brink of despair--and let him be remade.
Now you tell me
Please take a minute to share about your favorite characters. They may be ones you've written, or ones you've read. Hit the comment button and let me know how you feel.