How do we make our characters interesting?

People are living, breathing, human beings filled with love and fear, likes and dislikes, hopes and emotions. 

IF YOU’RE A WRITER, you don’t live in the same world as everyone else.

You can’t.

They look out a window.

The day is clear.

The sun shines.

Here come the dark clouds.

Rain may be on the way.

Rain may not come at all.

They watch the world.

They cannot control it.

Writers live on a bridge.

It’s a swinging bridge.

One end is tied to reality.

Writers have no idea where the other end is tied.

That’s why they’re trying to cross the bridge.

On the far side is where they want to be.

On the far side, they can create a world of their own.

Want it to rain?

It rains.

Want to be lost in a dry and heat-seared desert?

Erase the rain.


Bring on a woman.

At least, that’s what I do.

I’m sure my wife brings on a man.

We mold the characters we want to hang out with a while.

Then we marry them off.

We hurt them.

We disappoint them.

We frustrate them.

We kill them off.

Or, if we have any sense of decency, and few of us ever do, we let them ride off into the sunset.

They populate our stories.

Our stories populate our novels.

Everything is real.

Nothing is real.

As John Updike said: We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’ up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.

So how do we make our characters interesting?

It’s easy.

We make them believable.

Hemingway once said, and I paraphrase loosely, write your stories about people. People are living, breathing, human beings filled with love and fear, likes and dislikes, hopes and emotions.

How do we do this?

We don’t tell readers about our characters.

We show readers who and what they are.

In Conspiracy of Lies, I introduced the woman who would save the life of Lincoln Ambrose this way:

Between midnight and morning, she had misplaced or thrown away the velvet gown. Might as well. The charade was over. She was wearing gray slacks and a silk blouse the color of a fine emerald. Her eyes were a similar shade of green, and her dark hair had been pulled back away from her face.

She was driving hard, wide open, and belly flat on the highway. Her eyes kept shifting back and forth between the road and the rearview mirror. Before them stretched a narrow ribbon of concrete that came to a point as sharp as the tip of a stiletto and dropped off the face of the desert. The road was empty.

But she drove as though someone was chasing her.

The lady may have been right.

And I gave her the most important quality a femme fatale can have.

I gave her a secret.

Please click HERE to find Conspiracy of Lies on Amazon.


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