Writing Compelling Characters

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Today’s topic comes courtesy of The Great Blogging Experiment. Go check it out, because there are (at the time of this post) 174 bloggers signed up to write about the same topic in one giant chain of character blogginess. Shutup, spellcheck, that is too a word.

As anyone popping over from the Experiment may not know, this blog is almost all character-related. I talk about my characters. I talk about what makes them tick, why I love them, and why other people love them. I splash in a little bit of world-building and the occasional writing advice, but mostly this is a blog about the way my characters are developing. How I am trying to make them grow and learn and become compelling characters to read about.

So what do I think makes a compelling character? Struggle. There must be some internal struggle that lets you know they aren’t just a cut and paste paper doll. Kindra struggles with what she wants in life versus what she promised her father. Rebecca struggles with her secrets (so many secrets and lies). Apollo struggles with guilt, Holly struggles with stress of all sorts. Everyone has a problem that they have to learn to deal with, and none of them gets it right the first time. Or even the second time. They aren’t perfect. They all struggle with life and they all struggle with balancing what they want to do with what they should do. Just like you and me.

That’s really what makes a character feel real. That’s what makes them compelling.

For other takes on what makes a character compelling, don’t forget to check out The Great Blogging Experiment!

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Published by

Rebecca Enzor

Rebecca Enzor is a chemist in Charleston, SC who writes Young Adult and New Adult Fantasy and Magical Realism. Repped by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary.

24 thoughts on “Writing Compelling Characters”

  1. I’m new to your blog thanks to the blogging experiment. I am glad to see that you joined forces with Alex, Elana and I to make sure Elana doesn’t loose her kidney.

    Struggle is key, you are so right. Without it, they become boring and lifeless. We want our characters real.

    I look forward to seeing more about your characters!

  2. Jen, I’m glad you could come over to the blog! I was so far down the list I didn’t think anyone would get here until tomorrow 🙂

    I know I struggle A LOT in life, and I expect any character to do the same. If they aren’t struggling they obviously aren’t living! And reading about the struggle of others can certainly help us deal with our own struggles. Holly’s struggle, especially, helped me deal with my own issues that were going on at the same time and were very similar (which is probably why I chose to write about a character with those issues at that time :P).

    Hope to see you back again sometime!

  3. Ah, an author after my own heart. I love reading about struggle. I love the emotionalness (yes, it’s a word) if it. I love putting myself in that situation and wondering what I might do. It is all about the struggle. Great post!

  4. Struggle…conflict…tension. Whatever you call it, it’s vital. Important. It doesn’t matter how great your character is, without struggle…they are nothing.

    I’m a very character oriented, both in reading and writing. Nice to meet someone with similar tastes!

  5. I love the idea that characters should have both internal and external struggles. It’s even more fun when the two are at odds with each other – then readers really feel for the character!

  6. Anna – good point! When the two stuggles are at odds with each other it makes the character even deeper and makes you wonder which struggle will win out in the end.

    Elana – of course it’s a word! Just like blogginess 😉

    I’m glad you all like (and agree!) with the post. This has been an excellent Experiment!

  7. Thanks for all the comments you guys! I’m glad you liked my post 🙂 I’m still working my way through all the posts on the Experiment, but so far I haven’t seen anyone else mention struggle specifically. No lost kidney for Elana here!

  8. Struggle – what a perfect single word to sum up why it is we want to read more about a character. And it’s also the perfect avenue for exploring who they are when we get to see how they deal with it.

    Nice addition to the Experiment!

  9. I agree. Internal struggle is most compelling to me but I like to see how people take the challenges of every day life while dealing with their internal struggles. I like your blog. Simple, cool. Like it.

  10. Jolene – thank you! I also love the way everyday challenges can build up and make that struggle so much more difficult. Sometimes until you crack. That’s what Holly’s story is all about (which may or may not have been inspired by my own work situation….only I didn’t start seeing mythical monsters!)

    Nicki – thank you as well! I’m always pleased when I hit the nail on the head with my writing 🙂 And I love your avatar – cute shoes!

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