Simple Tricks for Deepening Your Characters Part 1: Let Character Goals Do All the Work

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can get to the end of a drafted novel and realize that something is off about our characters. They may feel distant, or like they only fill generic roles–the “love interest,” or the “best friend.” This can be hard to identify as a writer, because to us, the characters are alive, leaping and living in our minds. But we can detect symptoms of it when our readers don’t seem as invested in the story as we are, or when we have a hard time feeling what our characters would do next.

This is a common problem. As writers, when we start putting together stories, we can actually find it helpful to grab a stock character. Using that stock character as a filler can free us up to explore a piece of plot or worldbuilding that we are more excited about. However, if we never go back to fill out those characters with personal motives, interests, strengths, and weaknesses, it can actually trip up that plot we are so excited about, and keep our readers locked outside of our world. Even with fantastic action or ambiance, a reader can’t truly enter a story until they’ve empathized with our characters.

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