Thursday, December 22, 2005


Characters in any story must be well-drawn, interesting, and
sympathetic if the reader is to identify with them and care what
happens to them. Most readers are women, and they identify with
heroines. The heroine must be someone women can like and admire.

Heroines must:
* Act out the reader's fantasies
* Overcome the challenges the hero presents
* Make the hero fall in love with her
* Maintain her independence
* Maintain her femininity

Heroines are:
* independent, self-sufficient, involved in a career (often professional)
* motivated, with goals they're working toward
* honest, honorable, courageous, and monogamous
* strong and feisty, but with areas of vulnerability
* imperfect

Heroes must:
* be reliable, but independent.
* provide a challenge to a woman: He may be a bad boy who loves
danger and challenges, or an Alpha male--a powerful, dynamic,
charismatic character that sweeps a woman off her feet. He may be a
savage, driven by overwhelming passion for the heroine and willing to
go to any lengths to win her, or a rough-hewn, salt of the earthy
type, whose crude exterior belies warmth, sensitivity, and
tenderness. The heroine alone is the woman who finds the key to his

Heroes are:
* usually older than the heroine
* sexy and sensual, physically strong
* motivated and self-assured, with goals he's working toward
* ambitious, sexual, strong-willed
* monogamous
* sensitive, vulnerable in some way
* imperfect
Characters must be multi-dimensional, with a past, a future, hopes,
dreams, goals, frustrations, resentments, unrealized desires,
worries, and secrets.

Secondary characters:
While they aren't the characters that drive the story, secondary
characters lend humor, intrigue, and richness to a story. They need
not be as finely drawn as major characters, but they must serve a
purpose in a story.

Purposes of secondary characters:
* friend/mentor/advisor of hero and/or heroine. Conversations
and activities between them can reveal story background, motivation,
information important to plot.
* primary characters in sub-plots
* villains and incidental characters in stories
* may be colorful, lend comic relief
* may provide expertise necessary to plot
* must have a history, a future, goals and motivations, though
not as strongly developed as hero/heroine
* must serve a real purpose in a story

In order to write compelling stories, writers need to know their
characters inside and out, then capitalize upon the details that make
up the characters to tell their stories and create realistic
relationships. Every action of every character, whether primary or
secondary, must be motivated, and motivations must be strong and
Motivation drives the plot, creates conflict that moves the story,
and makes the reader care about what happens to the character.
Motivating forces must be both internal and external. They must
generate conflict within each character, and also generate conflict
between the characters. The most effective motivations are those
that create strong emotional responses, that the reader can identify
with and worry about, and which are the most difficult to resolve.
Good motivation will make your character sympathetic and keep your
reader turning pages to see what happens and how the problems are

Strong motivating factors:
* guilt: his/her carelessness/neglect/absence/
presence/mistake/etc. caused something bad to happen that the
character carries around with them (emotional baggage)
* need: his/her survival, or the survival of someone they love
or are responsible for depends on character acting in certain ways
* protection: someone else will be affected by their actions
* defense: they must hide behind an exterior persona, act in
certain ways, to keep from being hurt
* danger: consequences of action may be disastrous if the
character makes the slightest mistake
* revenge: character must get even for wrongs done in the past
(revenge is good against either primary or secondary characters)
* any other emotionally strong factor that can be used dramatically

Pat Collinge
Tacoma, WA


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