As writers, we do everything we can to make readers invested in our characters in some way. An invested reader is a happy reader, right?
Well, maybe not. Let’s take a look at the other side of character development.
Ashley asked a question in the comments last week that gets at the heart of strong, proactive characters. Even in literary fiction, characters are usually faced with making choices, and whatever triggers those choices is where we’ll find plot and character agency.
When we first start off as writers, if someone asks us about our story, we might launch into an overview of our story’s plot. It’s easy to think the plot is what our story is about. But with few exceptions, story isn’t the same as plot.
Aphantasia is the term for when someone can’t imagine something in their mind–“mind blindness” or not having a “mind’s eye.” As writers, this perspective not only gives us all sorts of story and character ideas, but it can also raise many questions about the concept of imagination itself.
I’ve written many times about how much I love subtext, the stuff that happens between the lines. Subtext lurks in many aspects of our stories and helps immerse readers and add realism and tension. In addition, subtext can help us build layered characters.
Conflict is one of those words we all think we understand, but the writing-world meaning doesn’t have the same connotation as the non-writing meaning. Yet it’s only after understanding conflict that we’ll see the difference between antagonists and villains in storytelling.
After completing a story, we might face the question of whether to put in the effort to revise it. If we decide our story has enough promise, what should we do next? Does our story contain all the essential elements? Does it have the bones of a good story?
Whether we put any stock into tests like Myers-Briggs, they’re interesting for providing insights into our strengths and weaknesses. Once we understand our traits, we can decide whether we wish to fight to improve, find a way around them, or embrace them as part of our process.
We’ve probably all come across “click bait” headlines that create a compulsion to click, but another click-worthy aspect of any content is simply the topic itself. For blog posts or books, learning what topics appeal to our readers can help us develop content.
We all have emotions, so we all think we know how to write them. However, sometimes the best writing comes from exposing an emotional truth that we’re hiding from ourselves. So the better we understand emotions, the better our stories will resonate with our readers.