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How to Write Compelling Characters

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Why is Character Development Important?

In the world of storytelling, characters are the beating heart of every narrative. They’re not just words on a page; they’re living, breathing entities that shape the course of a story. As a writer, I’ve come to realize that crafting compelling characters is an art form in itself—one that requires skill, empathy, and a keen understanding of human nature.

Strong character development is crucial for reader engagement. Readers want to connect with characters on a deep emotional level; to see themselves reflected in their struggles and triumphs. By investing time and effort into fleshing out your characters, you lay the foundation for a story that resonates long after the final page is turned.

Each character has a story to tell, a journey to embark upon, and a personality waiting to be discovered. Writing compelling characters is more than just giving them names and attributes; it’s breathing life into them, making them leap off the page and into the hearts and minds of readers. So how exactly do we write compelling characters that are at once interesting and realistic?

The Interplay of Characters and Plot

Character development serves as the driving force behind plot progression in storytelling. Characters are not merely vessels to carry out predetermined events; rather, they shape the narrative through their decisions, desires, and interactions. For instance, a protagonist’s motivations and actions can set events into motion, while their internal conflicts and growth throughout the story add depth and complexity to the plot.

Conversely, the events of the plot can also influence character development, forcing characters to confront challenges, make difficult choices, and ultimately evolve as individuals. This symbiotic relationship between characters and plot ensures that the story feels organic and dynamic, drawing readers in and keeping them invested in the characters’ journeys.

Crafting Compelling Characters: Techniques for Success

Adding Depth and Complexity

So, how do you go about crafting characters that readers can’t help but root for? Start by giving them depth and complexity. No one is purely good or purely evil; we’re all a mix of light and shadow. Your characters should reflect this nuance, with flaws and virtues that make them feel human. Show their strengths and weaknesses, their hopes and fears, in equal measure.

The Role of the Protagonist

Next, consider the role of the protagonist. As the driving force behind your story, the protagonist shoulders the weight of reader expectations. They should be compelling, relatable, and, above all, flawed. Perfect characters are boring; it’s their imperfections that make them interesting. Give your protagonist obstacles to overcome, internal conflicts to wrestle with, and flaws to confront. It’s through their struggles that they grow and change, driving the narrative forward in unexpected ways.

How to Write Interesting Characters

Remember, every character matters! Character development isn’t just about the protagonist; it’s about every character that inhabits your story’s world. From the quirky sidekick to the villainous antagonist, each character should serve a purpose, contributing to the overarching narrative in meaningful ways. Take the time to develop even minor characters, imbuing them with unique quirks and motivations that enrich the story as a whole.

One of the best ways to learn how to write compelling characters is by reading about compelling characters. Explore books both within and outside your target genre to learn what makes the characters tick and how their development moves the story forward! Check out our recommendations of books with fantastic characters who leap off the page:

Elevating Stories through Character Development

In conclusion, crafting compelling characters is an essential aspect of storytelling. By focusing on character development, authors can create rich, immersive worlds that captivate readers from the very first page. With the right attention to detail and a deep understanding of their characters’ motivations, writers can create stories that linger in the imagination long after the final chapter is read.

Atmosphere Press understands the importance of learning how to write compelling characters and building development in storytelling, which is why they offer a range of resources to help authors hone their craft. From personalized editorial feedback to marketing support, Atmosphere Press is committed to helping writers bring their characters to life in vivid detail.


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Erin K. Larson-Burnett, Production Manager at Atmosphere Press (submit your manuscript here!), is a born-and-raised Southerner currently living in Katy, Texas, with her husband and their small domestic zoo. She is an avid ink drinker who lives and breathes books—during the day, she works remotely with authors around the world, honing and perfecting books published through Atmosphere Press. By night, she crafts her own stories…or at least tries to. The Bear & the Rose is her debut novel.

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