Five Questions to Ask When Your Characters Are Too Good To Be True

by Catherine Matthews

It happens every day at every literary agency. A promising proposal comes in, agents start to read, and after a chapter or two there’s a huge problem staring them in the face. That problem has a name—the name of a main character who seems to have no problems of his or her own. It’s understandable. You’ve plotted and planned and written and revised. You’ve spent hundreds of pages with this character and thousands of hours thinking about them. By this point, they’re the coolest people you know (it’s okay, this secret will stay between you and us) and the thought of diminishing them in any way is genuinely upsetting. Why shouldn’t they be the smartest, the funniest, the sexiest, the most “together”—they’re the main character! Continue reading “Five Questions to Ask When Your Characters Are Too Good To Be True”

Five Questions To Answer When Crafting Characters

My absolute favorite movie of all time is The Goonies. It’s a staple for movie night, and we can’t get through a single family gathering without someone yelling, “hey you guys!” I’ve probably seen the movie a thousand times, and I’m pretty sure I’ll see it at least a thousand more. Why? Because the Goonies are one of my favorite groups of characters 7f4f780e0dc5b505bfad0b4099aaffadever. They’re memorable, flawed, loyal and pretty darn hilarious.

That being said, it probably doesn’t come as any surprise that one of my favorite things to see in a manuscript is wonderfully quirky, realistic characters. Developed characters are a foundational element of a polished manuscript. So, how do you know if your characters are as developed on the page as they are in your head? Here are five of the things that I look for in developed characters.

1. What does the character want?

Characters, like anyone, have goals. Your protagonist’s goal should be made clear pretty early in your story. Setting this up gives the reader a (dare I say) treasure map. Showing a goal give’s the reader an opportunity to imagine what the ending will be like, and the many possible obstacles between where they are and where they want to be. Anticipating obstacles is one part of what draws readers in and makes them want to continue with your story. If your character has a goal, you can define what motivates him to chase the goal, what’s keeping him from the goal, and what growth is required to reach the goal. All of these are necessary for developing your character. Continue reading “Five Questions To Answer When Crafting Characters”