Characters are People, Too

One of the most important aspects of writing a good story is creating believable characters. It’s important to have heroes and heroines who  “come alive” on the page and take us on a journey with them. A thrilling plot and breathtaking or imaginative scenery can draw a reader into a book, but unless he or she sympathizes with the characters, the story can easily be forgotten once the last page is turned.

In reality, few of us travel a straight and narrow path toward the resolution of a problem or challenge. We waiver, we hold back, we deny – in other words, we might go three steps forward in our pursuit of something, but chances are, we’ll go two steps back as well. We have beliefs that aren’t grounded in logic, we have flaws and we have contradictions.  We should let our characters have them, too.

This is particularly true when writing about something that’s happened in the past. It’s easy to get caught up in the researched facts about a time period. But if our characters are caught up in those “facts”, too – if we can only give them thoughts or beliefs that follow the very narrow social restrictions of the time, then we’re losing out on giving our readers characters they can admire or cheer on or even hate. 

I was very lucky to come upon an article, “Craft of Writing: People are More Human than Anybody” (May 9, 2014) by author Jane Nickerson. It was written for Adventures in YA Publishing, a blog that I follow. While Nickerson writes historical fiction, much of what she says applies to all types of writing.

                …there are truly evil, unredeemed people, but somewhere in them still lurks some faint spark of humanity, even if it’s deeply buried and rarely shown. …Even zombies have the pathos of their former humanity, which is what makes us feel for them , at least for a little bit. There are truly wonderful  people. But all truly wonderful people still have their imperfections. Even Mother Teresa had her flaws.” 

Nickerson goes on to say, “As you craft your characters, whatever the setting, bring out their humanity.”  I’d like to believe that Nickerson meant all that makes them human – the good, the bad and the ugly. After all, characters are people, too.


Wise words, Robin! I spend a lot of energy on plot, & only lately have been really focusing on character. It's tough for me, but so rewarding.

It's tough for me, too, Beth. I much prefer to work on plot.

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